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Facebook faces criminal investigation

14 March 2019

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.

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.

A grand jury in New York has ordered two smartphone makers which were party to such deals to hand over documents, according to the New York Times, though it is not known what exactly the jury is investigating. 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.

Facebook gave companies including Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Sony and Amazon the ability to access user data long after it had stopped sharing data with most third-parties, the Times revealed.

Those partnerships have allowed private companies to see users' contact info and their friends.

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

The Times report emerged on the same day that Facebook saw widespread outages on its apps, including Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

That penalty could beat the $22.5-million fine that Google took after the search giant had bypassed privacy measures in the Safari browser.

The grand jury inquiry was on behalf of the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of NY.

A spokesman for the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe. "We've provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so".

Facebook faces criminal investigation