Facebook's data-sharing deals reportedly under criminal probe

Clay Curtis
March 14, 2019

A NY grand jury has subpoenaed records from at least two smartphone manufacturers as part of a criminal investigation into Facebook's data deals with large technology companies.

Investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, the justice department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have all been previously reported.

A grand jury in NY has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies. 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.

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

The data sharing deals were reported by the New York Times in June and December of previous year.

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

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Facebook is already entangled in a criminal investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which political consultants used its systems to improperly harvest data from 87 million people.

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

"We've provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so", Facebook said in a statement.

News of the controversial agreements emerged in June when the Times reported that Facebook had agreed to provide access to large amounts of user data to at least 60 different device makers - including companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and BlackBerry.

News of the investigation comes exactly one week after Mark Zuckerberg published a lengthy memo outlining his vision to turn Facebook into a "privacy-focused" platform.

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