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Facebook reportedly under criminal investigation for secret data-sharing deals

15 March 2019
Facebook reportedly under criminal investigation for secret data-sharing 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.

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

The Times had previously reported on its finding that Facebook had partnered with companies, including smartphone makers, and allowed them to access the private data of hundreds of millions of its users without their permission - and even in ways that appear to have intentionally avoided asking for permission. 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.

The social media giant acknowledged the report in a tweet, saying that it is already facing federal investigations. Apple, for example, was able to slurp up contact numbers and calendar entries from users who thought they'd disabled all sharing, unbeknownst to the users - though Apple maintains it had no idea Facebook had given it special access and that it removed no data from users' devices.

It wasn't immediately clear what the grand jury was focused on or when its investigation began.

Facebook had data-sharing arrangements with more than 150 companies, according to a December report in the New York Times.

Facebook responded by noting that other federal investigations are reportedly underway. Numerous partnerships ended years ago, the Times noted, but the deals with Amazon and Apple were ongoing at the time of the story.