Facebook confirms data sharing with Chinese companies, including Huawei and Oppo

Agencies
June 6, 2018

Washington, Jun 6: Facebook Inc said Tuesday it has data sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese companies including Huawei, the world`s third largest smartphone maker, which has come under scrutiny from US intelligence agencies on security concerns.

The social media company 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.

Members of Congress raised concerns after The New York Times reported on the practice on Sunday, saying that 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.

More than half of the partnerships have already been wound down, Facebook said. It said on Tuesday it would end the Huawei agreement later this week. It is ending the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.

Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from US intelligence officials who argue they provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical US infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.

Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who asked Facebook if Huawei was among the companies that received user data, said in a statement that the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee had raised concerns about Huawei dating back in 2012.

"The news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook’s API to Chinese device makers like Huawei and TCL raises legitimate concerns, and I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers," Warner said.

API, or application program interface, essentially specifies how software components should interact.

A Facebook executive said the company had carefully managed the access it gave to the Chinese companies.

"Facebook along with many other U.S. tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones," Francisco Varela, vice president of mobile partnerships for Facebook, said in a statement. "Facebook`s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get-go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built."

Varela added that "given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei`s servers."

RESPONSE DEMANDED FROM ZUCKERBERG

Earlier on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee demanded that Facebook`s chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, respond to a report that user data was shared with at least 60 device manufacturers, weeks after the social media company said it would change its practices after a political firm got access to data from millions of users.

Senators John Thune, the committee`s Republican chairman, and Bill Nelson, the ranking Democrat, on Tuesday wrote to Zuckerberg after The New York Times reported that manufacturers were able to access data of users` friends even if the friends denied permission to share the information with third parties.

In April, the Federal Communications Commission proposed new rules that would bar purchases by government programs from companies that it says pose a security threat to U.S. telecoms networks, a move aimed at Huawei and ZTE Corp, China’s No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker.

The Pentagon in May ordered retail outlets on U.S. military bases to stop selling Huawei and ZTE phones, citing potential security risks.

ZTE was not among the firms that received access to Facebook data, but it has been the subject of U.S. national security concerns.

The letter asks if Facebook audited partnerships with the device manufacturers under a 2011 consent order with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It also asked if Zuckerberg wanted to revise his testimony before the Senate in April.

Facebook said it looks forward to addressing any questions the Commerce Committee has.

Facebook still has not answered hundreds of written questions submitted from members of Congress after Zuckerberg`s testimony in April, according to congressional staff.

The data sharing mentioned in the Times story was used over the last decade by about 60 companies, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Blackberry Ltd, HTC Corp, Microsoft Corp and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president of product partnerships, wrote in a blog post on June 3.

The FTC confirmed in March that it was investigating Facebook`s privacy practices.

Facebook allowed Apple and other device makers to have "deep" access to users` personal data without their consent, according to the Times.

The Times said Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users` friends without their explicit consent, even after it had declared it would no longer share the information with outsiders.

Archibong said the data was only shared with device makers in order to improve Facebook users` access to the information. "These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences."

Regulators and authorities in several countries have increased scrutiny of Facebook after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with now-defunct political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Two Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, on Monday also wrote to Zuckerberg.

Archibong said the cases were "very different" from the use of data by third-party developers in the Cambridge row.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said on Monday the "data-sharing partnerships with other corporations" is part of the ongoing investigation into the reported misuse of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica.

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April 12,2024

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New Delhi, Apr 12: India on Friday asked its citizens not to travel to Iran or Israel amid escalating tensions between the two countries following a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 11 days ago.

Iran blamed Israel for the strike and there have been fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israel soon.

In an advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also urged the Indians residing in Iran and Israel to exercise utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to minimum.

“In view of the prevailing situation in the region, all Indians are advised not to travel to Iran or Israel till further notice,” it said.

“All those who are currently residing in Iran or Israel are requested to get in touch with Indian Embassies there and register themselves,” the MEA said.

“They are also requested to observe utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum,” it added. 

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April 5,2024

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New Delhi: The Congress has released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights.

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who led the committee that drafted the document - was also present.

"This manifesto will be 'nyay ka dastavez' (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' - yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge... ," Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto is based on 'work', 'wealth', and 'welfare', the party said.

"'Work' means you must provide jobs. 'Wealth' must be created before it is distributed. 'Welfare' means taking care of the poorer sections," the Congress said.

Silent on CAA

While the manifesto is silent on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and restoration of Article 370, the party promises immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Caste Census

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census - a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government's statewide survey was released in November.

The 48-page document promises to amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, with Caste Census providing the latest data to go ahead with the affirmative action. Addressing land issues, the party also pledges to establish an authority to monitor the distribution of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts to the poor.

MSP for Farmers

The party has also promised to implement MSP, or minimum support price, for farmer growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre's (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it will give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP - a core demand for protesting farmers - based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood," the party said, attacking the BJP's response to the farmers protest as "callous and brutal".

Poverty

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a "government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich", and said it is "driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent".

"... but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years."

As part of this promise - and to empower women - the Congress said it would launch a 'Mahalakshmi' scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

Inequality of income and opportunity remain India's ugliest truth. It is the moral and political responsibility of any government to ensure that every family is assured of a basic income every month, the party said.

National Security, China

The Congress said it "recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness".

The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country's borders with China and "ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers".

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing.

On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to "repair relations".

Healthcare

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, will be made available, the party said. This will come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power.

"We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care."

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

Other Major Points

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would "as a one-time measure of relief" write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15.

Banks will be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The party said it would also introduce a law to "recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community".

The Congress said it would amend laws to "combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers". "Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit," the party said.

2024 Lok Sabha Election

The election will be spread over seven phases beginning April 19. Votes will be declared June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP - which is yet to release its manifesto - are bidding for a third consecutive term.  They face a combined challenge from the opposition, which has united (for the most part) under the INDIA banner led by the Congress. 

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April 5,2024

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Bengaluru: A striking feature in the candidates list for the April 26 Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka is the presence of members of Janata Dal (Secular)'s first family.

Former Prime Minister and JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda's son H D Kumaraswamy, son-in-law C N Manjunath and grandson Prajwal Revanna are all in the fray.

While state JD(S) chief and former Chief Minister H D Kumararaswamy is contesting from Mandya, Prajwal Revanna is seeking reelection from Hassan.

However, Manjunath, an eminent cardiologist, is contesting from Bangalore Rural on a BJP ticket, as per the arrangement between the alliance partners.

With the entry of cardiologist Manjunath into the poll arena, at least nine members of Gowda's immediate family are or have been in electoral politics.

Gowda is a Member of Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, while Kumaraswamy is an MLA from Channapatna, which comes under the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency.

Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha had represented Ramanagara as MLA in the previous assembly, and Nikhil, who is the JD(S) youth wing leader, had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Mandya and 2023 assembly polls from Ramanagara.

Gowda's elder son and former Minister H D Revanna -- father of Prajwal -- is MLA from Holenarsipura, his wife Bhavani Revanna was a member of the Hassan Zilla Panchayat. Their other son, Suraj, is an MLC.

The Gowda family currently has its representation in all the four major houses of public representatives- Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council.

This will be for the second consecutive time in the Lok Sabha elections, when three members from Gowda's family are in the fray from constituencies of the old-Mysore region (south Karnataka), which is considered to be the party's stronghold, because of the dominance of the Vokkaliga community here, to which they belong to.

Gowda (Tumkur), Prajwal Revanna (Hassan), and Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil (Mandya) had contested the Lok Sabha poll in 2019, but only Revanna emerged victorious. In fact, he was among the only two candidates from the then ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance, who won; the other being D K Suresh of Congress from Bangalore Rural.

As part of the seat-sharing deal in this Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, the BJP would contest in 25 constituencies and the JD(S) in the remaining three -- Mandya, Hassan and Kolar. JD(S) has fielded M Mallesh Babu from Kolar.

In the 2023 assembly polls, three members of the Gowda family had contested - Kumaraswamy (Channapatna), H D Revanna (Holenarasipur), and Nikhil Kumaraswamy (Ramanagara). In the 2018 assembly polls, both Kumaraswamy and Revanna had won.

Kumaraswamy, who had then won from two seats - Ramanagara and Channapatna - vacated Ramanagara, which his wife Anita Kumaraswamy subsequently won in the bypolls.

According to some political observers, the perception in some quarters about JD(S) being too family-centric is one of its major drawbacks.

James Manor, University of London professor, who has been a keen observer of Karnataka's politics, during a webinar ahead of assembly polls last year had said, family-centred politics is causing discontent and leading to desertion. 'JD(S) suffers from over-centralisation and dictatorial leadership.'

However, Kumaraswamy has time and again defended family members contesting polls stating that , '....our family members will contest where we don't have a capable candidate, to protect the interest of our party and its workers.'

However, the JD(S)'s dynastic party image has always been used by its political opponents to target it.

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress president D K Shivakumar, had a dig at Gowda for fielding his son, grandson, and son-in-law, and asked 'Were there no other candidates (in JD(S))?'

'None of them is going to win...JD(S) is a party that has lost strength. If it is really strong, why did they make their son-in-law contest on a BJP ticket?' he said.

Some political analysts held the view that JD(S)' inability to grow beyond the Vokkaliga dominated old-Mysore region -- other than certain select pockets of north Karnataka -- is seen as among its other key drawbacks.

Speculations are already rife in JD(S) circles that Nikhil is most likely to be the party candidate from Channaptna assembly segment, in case Kumaraswamy wins in Mandya.

Ahead of assembly polls last year, differences in the Gowda family had come out in the open with H D Revanna's wife Bhavani wanting to contest from Hassan, but Kumaraswamy had opposed it and finally gave the ticket. 

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