US prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals

Cheryl Sanders
March 14, 2019

USA federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook Inc struck with some of the world's largest technology companies, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg created the partnerships to stave off obsolescence and insulate the massive company from competition.

"We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously", a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

The Times reports that a NY grand jury subpoenaed two unidentified smartphone makers who are involved in data partnerships with Facebook allowing them access to the social network's two billion users.

Facebook admitted in June that it provided dozens of tech companies with special access to user data after publicly saying it restricted such access in 2015.

Facebook had earlier this year been revealed to have data sharing partnerships with companies like Microsoft, Apple and Sony which had allowed the firm to access user's friends and contact information.

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

But the social network has always said that it was misled by Cambridge Analytica, describing its role in the scandal as having been too lax in policing how other companies were using its service. Facebook did not respond to questions about the focus or nature of the investigation. 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.

Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in NY. News of the subpoena comes at a bad moment for Facebook.

The United States Department of Justice declined to comment on the report.

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