Tech: Facebook under fire again on privacy
Facebook was back on the defensive this week, after reports that it provided users’ data to at least 60 phone companies globally, including Huawei, a telecom giant “with alleged ties to the Chinese government,” said Tony Romm in The Washington Post. The data-sharing agreements, which date to 2007, were part of an effort by Facebook to attract more mobile users. The company gave phone manufacturers direct access to Facebook data so that devices could incorporate the “Like” button and other popular Facebook features, and “so that customers could more seamlessly perform tasks such as syncing their contacts.” Some partners—the list included Apple, HTC, and Samsung—could access users’ work history, relationship status, and political leanings, as well as the data of users’ friends.
“Certainly, it looks bad for Facebook to have made and kept these agreements,” said Alexis Madrigal in TheAtlantic.com. Although there is so far no evidence of data misuse, Huawei has been flagged by U.S. intelligence as a national security threat. And it is troubling that Facebook did not initially acknowledge that Chinese firms were part of the data-sharing agreements. “Their reticence adds to the sense expressed by congressional leaders (and just about everyone else) that maybe Facebook is not always completely forthcoming about its problems.”