Facebook made it known to Congress that it has shared user data with fifty-two IT companies – makers of both hardware and software. The revelation was made in a document dump of more than 700 pages to the House Energy and Commerce Committee late in the day on Friday.
The cache of documents consisted of responses to lawmakers’ follow-up questions to the much-publicized testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress in April.
Lawmakers called Zuckerberg up to The Hill to testify about a security breach in which a data research firm, now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, inappropriately harvested the personal data of some 87 million Facebook users.
Facebook was heavily criticized for not telling the users about the compromised data for two years, as well as for not following up with the firm to confirm that the data had been deleted as had been requested.
Facebook had been repeatedly criticized in the past for their user privacy policies. Zuckerberg vowed to do better.
“I think it’s, it’s pretty much impossible, I believe, to start a company in your dorm room and then grow it to be at the scale that we’re at now without making some mistakes,” Zuckerberg told Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in his April testimony. “And, because our service is about helping people connect and information, those mistakes have been different…we try not to make the same mistake multiple times.”
“But I’m committed to getting this right. And I believe that, over the coming years, once we fully work all these solutions through, people will see real differences,” he said.
Documents reveal that Facebook shared user data with companies like Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Samsung, Alibaba and Qualcomm. But companies on the list also include Chinese firms that national security officials consider threats, such as Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL.
“People went online using a wide variety of text-only phones, feature phones, and early smartphones with varying capabilities,” the company wrote. “In that environment, the demand for internet services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube outpaced our industry’s ability to build versions of our services that worked on every phone and operating system.”
According to the social media giant, it has ended thirty-eight of the fifty-two relationships. It will end the remaining partnerships this month, it says.
Lawmakers’ concerns about Facebook’s privacy policies were not assuaged.
“The news that Facebook provided privileged access to [Facebook user data] to Chinese device makers like Huawei and TCL raises legitimate concerns, and I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, said earlier this month.
House Energy and Commerce’s Ranking Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, echoed those concerns. “After initial review, I am concerned that Facebook’s responses raise more questions than they answer,” he said.
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