Cambridge Analytica wasn’t the only company creeping on Facebook users and their friends.
The Menlo Park-based social media giant reportedly provided a host of phone manufacturers with access to the data of some Facebook users’ and their friends. And it gets worse. As the New York Times reports today, one of those companies includes Huawei — a Chinese telecommunications behemoth which the Times writes “has been flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat.” The CIA, FBI, and NSA recommended earlier this year that U.S. consumers not use Huawei products, and Congress has been worried about the manufacturer’s spying potential for some time.
And just what data, exactly, did Facebook give Huawei access to? It’s not 100 percent clear, but we do have a general idea. Again, according to the Times:
Facebook officials said the agreements with the Chinese companies allowed them access similar to what was offered to BlackBerry, which could retrieve detailed information on both device users and all of their friends — including work and education history, relationship status and likes.
So, yeah. That means if any one of your friends used a Huawei smartphone, there is a chance that your history of Facebook likes and other personal information was in some way provided to the Chinese company.
None of this is really in dispute. Axios reports that Facebook confirmed Huawei was indeed one of the companies with “broad access to customer data.”
The deal was reportedly inked in 2010 or earlier, and according to Facebook is now scheduled to end by the end of this week.
However, don’t think for even a moment that anyone at Facebook is going to cop to doing anything wrong.
“All Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and Facebook approved everything that was built,” Francisco Varela, a Facebook vice president, told the Times. “Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei’s servers.”
And there is indeed interest from Congress. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia let the company know that he wants answers. Now.
But even if Facebook manages to quickly provide them, we can’t imagine Warner’s going to like what the company has to say.
After all, Facebook hasn’t been making a lot of friends recently.