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Facebook Facing Criminal Investigation Into Device Data Share Deals

14 March 2019

As if today couldn't get any worse for Facebook, the company is now facing a criminal investigation as the result of its controversial data sharing practices.

U.S. prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Facebook's practice of sharing users' data with companies without letting the social network's members know, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in NY has subpoenaed records from at least 2 prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies.

"We are co-operating with investigators and take those probes seriously", a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider.

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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.

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

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

Facebook is already facing the prospect of multi-billion dollar fines to settle privacy investigations by the US Federal Trade Commission and other agencies. Both companies entered into large and complex data deals with Facebook, allowing all the firms involved in the partnership to collect vast troves of information on millions of users. But a criminal investigation would raise the stakes significantly.

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

Facebook said it was cooperating with investigators in multiple federal probes, without addressing the grand jury inquiry specifically.

Federal prosecutors are investigating data-sharing deals struck between Facebook and makers of mobile computing devices.

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.

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The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook Facing Criminal Investigation Into Device Data Share Deals