US prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals

Facebook is already facing the prospect of multi-billion dollar fines to settle privacy investigations

The Times reports that a NY grand jury subpoenaed two unidentified smartphone makers who are involved in data partnerships with Facebook allowing them access to the social network's two billion users.

A grand jury subpoenaed records from two smartphone developers, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing two anonymous sources familiar with the matter. According to the report, which was published in December, "Facebook allowed Microsoft's Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users' friends without consent. and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users' private messages".

As if to underscore the company's challenges, Facebook's social network suffered one of the worst technical outages in its history on Wednesday, leaving users and advertisers unable to access the site for much of the day.

In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with US President Donald Trump's campaign. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified in front of Congress and the European Parliament to answer questions about Facebook's handling of user data.

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

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.

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

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

The logo of Amazon is seen on the door of an Amazon Books retail store in New York City, U.S., February 14, 2019.

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

Facebook seemed to confirm the report by telling the Times it is "cooperating" with investigators.

The report comes as the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission continue scrutinizing Facebook's business model.

The United States Department of Justice declined to comment on the report.

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