Facebook Facing Potential Legal Problems For Data Sharing

It’s no secret that Facebook has been taking some hits in the past few years when it comes to their privacy and data collection/sharing practices. But while the public outrage machine often goes into effect, the social network has largely avoided legal battles. That may be about to change, however, as the New York Times reports that federal prosecutors are investigating data deals that Facebook made with other tech companies.

Information is still light on the ground about the investigation, but the New York Times says that “according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters,” a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York has subpoenaed records “from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices.”

While the Times didn’t name the companies, they did say that they were part of a group of more than 150 companies — including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Sony — that had previous deals with Facebook which gave them access to customer data. Some of that access was granted without customer knowledge or consent.

“We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement to the Times. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Just this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined how the social network was going to focus on increased privacy moving forward. His plan sounds good on paper. But anyone who’s been following Facebook and privacy over the past few years know that it’s a little hard to believe that a tech megalith that built its entire multi billion dollar business on selling user data is going to change course.

For example, lets take a look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for which Facebook is also under investigation. We’re all familiar with the story now, but when it broke in early 2018, many news outlets were calling it a “data leak.” We — along with other privacy sites — pointed out that it wasn’t a data leak at all but instead misuse of customer data, without consent. And that Facebook had consciously set up a system that not only made that kind of data collection and misuse possible, but also normalized giving up personal data without much thought.

Facebook reportedly phased out “most” of these shady partnerships in the past two years, but it’s possible that it may have been too little, too late. Regardless of the outcome of any criminal investigations, the social network has fundamentally altered the entire world’s concept of what information is okay to give away to big companies.

Think about it. Do you think there aren’t still people clicking on agreements about what a company is going to do with their data without actually reading the print in order to access a fun quiz? We don’t.

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