Australian MPs may call Mark Zuckerberg to a committee hearing over Facebook data and Chinese phones

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesFacebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

  • MPs leading Australia’s parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security want answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the social media company’s data-sharing arrangement with Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.
  • Huawei has access to Facebook user data under an agreement struck several years ago. The company has been repeatedly named as a security concern by intelligence officials, and Australian defence officials are not allowed to use its devices.

Australian politicians may seek to have Mark Zuckerberg appear before the federal parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee after it emerged Facebook had a data-sharing agreement with Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.

Intelligence officials in Australia and the US have repeatedly raised concerns about Huawei’s connections to the Chinese government, worried that data on the company’s devices and networks might be accessed by government agents.

Huawei was barred from trying to participate in Australia’s National Broadband Network in 2012 and earlier this year it emerged the federal Department of Defence would stop employees from using the company’s devices.

The chair and deputy chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security have told The Australian that they want answers from Zuckerberg over how data on Australian Facebook users was available to Huawei under the data-sharing agreement, which was revealed this week.

“It is completely unacceptable that information from Facebook users has been slyly handed over to Huawei, by Facebook,” the committee’s deputy chair, Anthony Byrne, told The Australian. “I want to know why Mr Zuckerberg allowed this to happen. If need be, he will be invited to appear before the PJCIS in a public hearing to explain himself to our committee and the Aus­tralian people.”

In April, Zuckerberg was grilled by US lawmakers in a joint committee hearing and last month made a similar appearance at the European parliament.

The US and European hearings were prompted by the revelations that more than 80 million Facebook users had their data scraped by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge.

But Facebook is now facing more questions about its users’ privacy after it emerged it shared user data with four Chinese smartphone manufacturers under deals with around 60 handset makers. In April, Facebook quietly decided to start phasing out those agreements after a review of its data practices.

“Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get go – and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built,” Francisco Varela, Facebook’s VP of Mobile Partnerships told Business Insider this week. “Given the interest … we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei’s servers,” Varela said.

Andrew Hastie, the government chair of the parliamentary joint committee, said: “It’s disturbing that Facebook has shared personal data with a telecommunications company with close links to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Why do tech companies ­resist giving information to law enforcement but are happy to hand it freely to foreign ­companies with ties to authoritarian states?”

Read the full story at The Australian >>

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