Facebook faces criminal probe of data deals: report

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SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – US 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 New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major
smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the
Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials around the world have
already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook which has
more than two billion users.

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for
controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political
consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87
million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal
investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman
said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“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.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and
other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with
applications. Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining
whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and
protected privacy.

The California-based social network has announced a series of moves to
tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing
partnerships with outside companies.

The focus of the grand jury probe was not clear, nor was when it started,
according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources.

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