As Facebook was stabilising from outage that hit most nations globally, the New York Times reported late Wednesday that US prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into the social network’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting them know.
According to the report, a grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook.
The news comes with regulators, investigators and elected officials in the US and elsewhere in the world digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook.
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 which did work for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.
Facebook suggested there was nothing new in the New York Times report.
“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a spokesman told AFP.
“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 maintained that it 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.
Over the past year, the social network has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.