Monday, 21 October, 2019

Facebook's data-sharing deals reportedly under criminal probe

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy Mark Zuckerberg at the US Senate in April 2018 Credit Andrew Harnik AP
Patty Aguilar | 14 March, 2019, 17:31

Facebook is under criminal investigation for a series of controversial data-sharing deals it signed with other major tech companies, according to reports.

"We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously", a Facebook spokesman told TheNYT in a press statement. The investigation comes as Facebook continues to struggle with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal.

Following the report in the New York Times previous year, the company said, "none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people's permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC". Federal prosecutors have been looking into the social media giant's deals with more than 150 firms to share data on hundreds of millions of users.

The probe constitutes a sharp escalation of Facebook's legal problems in the U.S., where it is under scrutiny from four separate government agencies, including the United States justice department, as well as from legislators.

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Manufacturers of mobile devices got an especially sweet deal, according to internal Facebook documents seen by the Times. These data sharing partnerships allowed these technology companies to build features like Microsoft's People Hub or BlackBerry's Facebook integration as value adds for their devices. But a criminal investigation would raise the stakes significantly.

It wasn't immediately clear what the grand jury was focused on or when its investigation began.

The data sharing deals were reported by the New York Times in June and December of past year. At the time, the company strongly disputed that these data partnerships violated users' privacy or the company's 2012 settlement with the FTC.

Facebook has allegedly ended most of the partnerships over the past two years.

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