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.
Federal investigators are scrutinizing partnerships that allowed other companies to access users’ data without their consent, according to a new report in the New York Times.
The investigation reportedly stems from partnerships Facebook formed with more than 100 other companies, such as Microsoft, Netflix, and Spotify. Those deals, which were previously examined by the NYT, allowed companies to access Facebook features from their own services. For example, Yahoo’s email service could access your friend list to help you find people you know.
But these partnerships also allowed third-party companies to get much deeper access to user data than it had previously made clear. 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.”
Facebook has defended the deals. Following the report in the New York Times last year, the company said, “none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.” Facebook has said the partnerships were well-publicized at the time, and that it has since shut most of them down.
Despite these assurances, the partnerships are now the subject of a federal investigation. Details of the investigation are unclear, but a grand jury has subpoenaed documents from “at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company told The Times that it’s cooperating with investigators.
News of the investigation comes exactly one week after Mark Zuckerberg published a lengthy memo outlining his vision to turn Facebook into a “privacy-focused” platform. Facebook is also facing a record-setting multibillion-dollar fine from the FTC for privacy violations, according to The Washington Post.