Facebook under criminal investigation over data sharing deals: New York Times report

An October 11, 2018 photo shows the Facebook log-in page in Washington, DC. - Facebook on October 11, 2018 said it shut down 251 accounts for breaking rules against spam and coordinated deceit, some of it by ad farms pretending to be forums for political debate. The move came as the leading social network strives to prevent the platform from being used to sow division and spread misinformation ahead of US elections in November. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into Facebook’s data sharing deals with a number of large technology companies, according to a new report in the New York Times.

As part of the investigation, a New York grand jury has subpoenaed two well-known smartphone makers for records related to the investigation, according to the report.

Facebook had data-sharing arrangements with more than 150 companies, according to a December report in the New York Times. The deals helped Facebook gain more users, according to the report, and its partners were able to access user data without obtaining consent. Many of the partnerships ended years ago, the Times noted, but the deals with Amazon and Apple were ongoing at the time of the story.

The grand jury inquiry was on behalf of the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. When contacted by CNN Business, the Eastern District did not have a comment on the case.

A Facebook spokesperson did not address the New York Times story specifically, but told CNN Business, “It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice. As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Last July, Facebook began facing a widening inquiry from the federal government, with three federal agencies and the Department of Justice looking into how the political-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained the personal data of up to 87 million Americans.

The company has been juggling a number of scandals and investigations since the Cambridge Analytica revelations nearly a year ago. Last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company would be pivoting to privacy, focusing more on its messaging platforms and enabling more ephemeral features and encrypted chats.

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