It’s a day of the week, so that means it’s time for more revelations about Facebook’s sharing habits that it hadn’t previously revealed to users. In the latest entry in the endless attempt at retroactive transparency, Facebook revealed to Congress that it shared data with 52 hardware and software companies, including some firms headquartered in China.
The Wall Street Journal reported the information was part of a 747-page document dump the company dropped on lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Friday. The committee has since made public the document, which purports to answer at least in part some of the many questions Mark Zuckerberg was peppered with when he testified earlier this year.
Headlining the list of companies Facebook shared additional information with were major tech firms, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Samsung, as well as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. BlackBerry was on the list, too, for some reason. Companies like Nissan, UPS, and others also were part of the sharing program.
Also on the list of 52, and of particular interest to lawmakers, was the inclusion of several Chinese firms: Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL. US intelligence agencies have raised suspicions about the firms and their ties to the Chinese government in the past, particularly Huawei. FBI Director Chris Wray testified previously that Huawei products provide “the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information.”
Not all of the revelations in the document were new. The New York Times previously reported that Facebook shared data with at least 60 device makers, primarily companies that produce smartphones. Huawei was included on that list, as well.
According to Facebook, the data shared with companies went on for several months after the social network cut off developer access to information belonging to a user’s friends. Facebook shared names, genders, dates of birth, current city, hometown, photos, and page likes with the developers who received the special deals.
Per the Wall Street Journal, the company explained that the data was provided in an attempt to improve its ability to operate on different platforms and devices. “People went online using a wide variety of text-only phones, feature phones, and early smartphones with varying capabilities,” Facebook 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.”
From the looks of it, lawmakers aren’t totally sold on Facebook’s explanation. According to the Hill, the House Energy and Commerce’s top Democrat, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., said, “After initial review, I am concerned that Facebook’s responses raise more questions than they answer.” [Wall Street Journal, The Hill]