Google, Twitter told to share info about data-sharing agreement with Chinese firms
Washington, Jun 7: A top US lawmaker today asked Twitter and Google's parent company Alphabet to provide information about their data-sharing agreements with Chinese companies, amid growing security and intellegence concerns over the tech trade with third-party vendors.
The letter by Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who is a Vice Chairman of the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, follows a disclosure earlier this week by Facebook that it had partnerships with Chinese telecom companies including Huawei that allowed them to access Facebook users' non-public data.
"Since at least October 2012, when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its widely-publicized report, the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and equipment makers like Huawei and ZTE has been an area of national security concern," Warner wrote in identical letters to Twitter and Alphabet.
"Since then, numerous articles in the tech trade press have focused on concerns by American and allied intelligence agencies that products from Chinese device makers, such as Lenovo, have security vulnerabilities that could allow Chinese intelligence to access data stored on, or transmitted by, devices," he said.
The New York Times reported in 2016 that firmware found in low-end smartphone devices, such as those of Huawei and ZTE, continually transmitted local data to Chinese severs, potentially for foreign intelligence purposes, he said. It is publicly known that Alphabet has entered into strategic partnerships with Chinese mobile device manufacturers, including Huawei and Xiaomi, as well as with Chinese technology platform Tencent. In light of Facebook's recent revelations, Warner requested that the company provide information about those partnerships, as well as any other agreements that Alphabet may have entered into with third-party vendors based in China.
He asked Twitter and Alphabet to confirm whether they have entered into similar agreements with mobile device companies and provide a full list of these vendors. "Were any of the third party partnerships with vendors based in China? Were Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo or Xiaomi among them? If so, please provide a full list of these vendors," he asked. The letter comes in the wake of reports that Facebook entered into data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers, under which enormous volumes of non-public consumer data were made available to third parties, including in cases where Facebook users had restricted access from third party apps and websites.
Facebook has now acknowledged that the social media company worked with Huawei, TCL and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones, Warner said. "There are indications that this practice of embedding social media sharing functions with Chinese OEMs may have been more widespread, including potentially through agreements between Twitter and these Chinese companies," Warner said.