Facebook has revealed to the US Congress that it shared data with 52 hardware and software companies from around the world.
As The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) reports, this new information was disclosed in a 747-page document that Facebook provided to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has since made the document (opens in new tab) public.
Some of the biggest tech companies on the planet were mentioned as receiving the user data, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung. Nissan, UPS and BlackBerry were also named.
As Gizmodo (opens in new tab) points out, a number of Chinese companies appear in the document, including Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo. This may prove to be rather awkward for Facebook, as US intelligence agencies have taken a keen interest in some of these companies' alleged ties to the Chinese government.
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According to Facebook, this data was shared by companies for a number of months after it had stopped developers from using apps to access information belonging to users’ friends. The data that Facebook shared included names, genders, dates of birth, the city where users lived, hometown, photos and pages liked.
Facebook has justified sharing this data by saying that it was done to help users access Facebook and its various features on a number of different platforms, and that the data sharing started at a time when these apps were in their infancy.
According to the document, Facebook claims that "The partnerships – which we call 'integration partnerships' – began before iOS and Android had become the predominant ways people around the world accessed the internet on their mobile phones. People went online using a wide variety of text-only phones, feature phones, and early smartphones with varying capabilities."
Facebook then explained that "In that environment, the demand for internet services like Facebook […] outpaced our industry's ability to build versions of our services that worked on every phone and operating system. As a solution, internet companies often engaged device manufacturers and other partners to build ways for people to access their experiences on a range of devices and products."
If you’re not totally convinced by that justification, then you’re not alone. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee, concluded: “After initial review, I am concerned that Facebook’s responses raise more questions than they answer.”
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