WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two key U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday rebuked Facebook Inc for not being more transparent over its data sharing after the social media company said it had collaborated with at least four Chinese companies, including a smartphone maker that has raised U.S. security concerns.
The top Republican and Democrat on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg should have disclosed those partnerships when he appeared before them in April.
“Clearly, the company’s partnerships with Chinese technology companies and others should have been disclosed before Congress and the American people,” the panel’s Republican chairman Greg Walden and ranking Democrat Frank Pallone said in a statement.
“We strongly encourage full transparency from Facebook and the entire tech community,” they wrote.
On Tuesday, Facebook said Huawei, computer maker Lenovo Group, and smartphone makers OPPO and TCL Corp were among about 60 companies worldwide that received access to some user data after they signed contracts to re-create Facebook-like experiences for their users.
Huawei, the world’s third largest smartphone maker, has come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies who argue that Chinese telecommunications companies provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical U.S. infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.
Facebook said on Tuesday it would end the Huawei pact this week, was ending the other three Chinese partnerships, and that more than half the partnerships had already been wound down.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman had no comment on the companies’ agreements.
Members of Congress expressed concern after The New York Times reported that the data of users’ friends could have been accessed without their explicit consent. Facebook denied that and said the data access was to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices.
The Federal Trade Commission, which settled with Facebook in 2011 over its information-sharing practices, declined comment on these most recent allegations.
That said, the agency acknowledged in March that it had opened an investigation into whether Facebook failed to live up to the 2011 settlement, which had been prompted by allegations the internet giant deceived users by telling them they could keep their information private but then shared it.
The settlement required Facebook to allow users to establish privacy settlings and obtain express consent from users before sharing their data beyond those settings.
In a separate letter on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee also pressed Facebook for more information, while the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat urged Facebook to release further details.
Facebook said it would address the Commerce Committee’s questions.
Congressional staff have said the company still has not answered hundreds of questions from lawmakers after Zuckerberg’s testimony before two committees in April.
Other companies that have used Facebook data sharing include Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, HTC Corp, Microsoft Corp and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Facebook has said.
Several countries are scrutinizing the social network after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with now-defunct political data firm Cambridge Analytica.
Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernadette Baum