Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

US prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals

US prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals

Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into controversial deals Facebook struck to share its users' data with dozens of tech companies without the users' knowledge, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The New York Times reports that a federal grand jury is investigating company partnerships that provided broad access to the information of millions of Facebook users.

"We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously", a Facebook spokesman told TheNYT in a press statement.

Under the terms of those deals, which the Times reported about in June, Facebook allowed device makers including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft to access personal user data, including friend lists, contact information, and sometimes even private messages - and not always with the user's consent, the report alleged.

Facebook is already facing the prospect of multi-billion dollar fines to settle privacy investigations.

The Times' report was released on Wednesday evening, while Facebook was dealing with a major outage.

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Other investigators have already been scrutinizing Facebook regarding other matters, including its relationship with Cambridge Analytic, the political firm that nefariously harvested user data and worked with the Trump campaign.

The social network's handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted previous year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users. But a criminal investigation would raise the stakes significantly.

The focus of the grand jury probe was not clear, nor was when it started, according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources. Facebook did not respond to questions about the focus or nature of the investigation.

The data sharing deals were reported by the New York Times in June and December of previous year. Investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, the justice department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have all been previously reported.

"This episode has clearly hurt us", Facebook CEO Zuckerberg told Congress past year while speaking about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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