Facebook faces criminal investigation over data sharing deals

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The federal government has initiated a criminal investigation into Facebook for its data dealings with some of the world's largest technology companies, adding to the company's woes as it clamors to mitigate fallout from recent revelations regarding potentially unscrupulous business practices.

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According to The New York Times, a New York grand jury has issued subpoenas for records from two smartphone manufacturers who entered into agreements with Facebook for wide access to personal information from hundreds of millions of users.

Many companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony included -- have, or at one point had, some sort of deal with Facebook that gives them some access to user data.

Facebook confirmed the investigation in a statement to The Times.

"We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously," a spokesman said. "We've provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so."

No other notable information surrounding the criminal charges, overseen by the Eastern District of New York's U.S. attorney's office, has been revealed. It is unclear when the investigation began or what it is focusing on, the report said.

The inquiry couldn't come at a worse time for Facebook, as the social network works feverishly to mend its public image amid several high-profile scandals.

Most recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged a newfound priority on privacy that has been largely deemed as little more than a publicity stunt. This follows the latest scandal in which Facebook was found to allow users to look up others based on the phone number submitted for two-factor authentication.

Prior to that, word leaked that Facebook and the FTC were nearing an agreement on a billion dollar privacy violation fine, stemming from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco during the 2016 election. The Cambridge investigation pulled in multiple U.S. agencies including the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Facebook recently felt Apple's ire when it was discovered that the social media giant was paying users to install a "research" app that gave it access to user device histories. The program relied on enterprise developer certificates designed for internal corporate use, a clear violation of Apple's policies. Apple decided to rescind Facebook's enterprise certificate, temporarily breaking all of the social media giant's internal applications.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,174member
    Although Senator Warren's idea to break up such companies is, I feel, not the real solution to these sorts of issues ... it's become very clear that FB and Google (and all other tech companies) are going to need to be much more carefully and thoroughly regulated. Something along the lines of a North American GDPR would be a good starting point, but obviously Google and FB, and probably Twitter and other smaller players cannot regulate themselves.
    olsmaltzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 413member
    I kinda agree Chasm.  But what I like to see is the curators of those companies to be politically neutral.  Neither left or right.  Have the common sense from the 1960s.  Something between the Kennedy Republicans and the Reagan Democrats.  If the powers-to-be of those companies don't like my proposal, in a way, they need to be disbanded.  I see no need for them.  I then see them as part Hitler and part Stalin.  Especially facebook* and google* are currently acting like fascists.


    * = I have no respect for these companies, therefore they will be in lower case.

    .
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    If FB has done wrong then please throw the book and every other book in the Library of Congress at them.
    IMHO FB has run roughshod over far too many people and laws for far too long.
    1984 is not a blueprint for corporate operations.
    Not a FB user, never have been and never will be.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    We have saying: There is boiling water for every pig. Do not know English equivalent. It is place where politicians have to focus their attention not App Store and weakening iOS security.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    Someone at facebook today: I have an idea, we will destroy the evidence.

    *massive world wide outage of all FB properties.*
    macseekerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    If FB has done wrong then please throw the book and every other book in the Library of Congress at them.

    Please don't.  Many of the books in the LoC are far to valuable to be flinging into a pile of feces.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    Some people here have blanked out Apple in:
    “Many companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony included -- have, or at one point had, some sort of deal with Facebook that gives them some access to user data.”

    Companies generally work around things like GDPR to do whatever they want.  Or, just accept the fines and continue business as usual...  I’d like to see the executives be held personally responsible.

    That said, I need a lot more details.  What personal information was shared?  Was it public info, or something that users should reasonably expect to be private? Like cell phones and email addresses? What did the purchasing companies use the data for?

    I know Facebook isn’t to be trusted (past behavior) and is shunned accordingly, but probably every major company has bought their data at one point or another.  In many cases, the fault of what data is shared is on Facebook... PII (personally identifiable information) shouldn’t be shared, but is.

    I assume nefarious intentions until proven otherwise in Facebook’s case...

    I’ll withhold judgment on everyone else, but it is a bad look.  How long did Apple buy Facebook’s data (for example)?  Cook talks about Facebook when emphasizing Apple’s privacy stance.  This may or may not be hypocritical...  

  • Reply 8 of 14
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 16unconfirmed, member
    Some people here have blanked out Apple in:
    “Many companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony included -- have, or at one point had, some sort of deal with Facebook that gives them some access to user data.”

    Companies generally work around things like GDPR to do whatever they want.  Or, just accept the fines and continue business as usual...  I’d like to see the executives be held personally responsible.

    That said, I need a lot more details.  What personal information was shared?  Was it public info, or something that users should reasonably expect to be private? Like cell phones and email addresses? What did the purchasing companies use the data for?

    I know Facebook isn’t to be trusted (past behavior) and is shunned accordingly, but probably every major company has bought their data at one point or another.  In many cases, the fault of what data is shared is on Facebook... PII (personally identifiable information) shouldn’t be shared, but is.

    I assume nefarious intentions until proven otherwise in Facebook’s case...

    I’ll withhold judgment on everyone else, but it is a bad look.  How long did Apple buy Facebook’s data (for example)?  Cook talks about Facebook when emphasizing Apple’s privacy stance.  This may or may not be hypocritical...  

    If the investigation implicates Apple as one of the guilty parties involved in buying FB data during the Cook era, that's going to look very bad on him and his privacy stance which will put him in huge trouble, possibly putting his job on the line. The question should be when did Apple stop buying data from FB or how recent that activity was. Either way, Cook can't play dumb and not know about it if investigators points the finger at the buyers including Apple. It's considerably bad and somewhat telling how hard Apple is trying to paint itself as a 'privacy saint' with all these ads and media blitz in regards to that topic. 

    But yes, more details are needed on what information Apple bought and used. 
  • Reply 9 of 14
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 247member
    Some people here have blanked out Apple in:
    “Many companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony included -- have, or at one point had, some sort of deal with Facebook that gives them some access to user data.”

    Companies generally work around things like GDPR to do whatever they want.  Or, just accept the fines and continue business as usual...  I’d like to see the executives be held personally responsible.

    That said, I need a lot more details.  What personal information was shared?  Was it public info, or something that users should reasonably expect to be private? Like cell phones and email addresses? What did the purchasing companies use the data for?

    I know Facebook isn’t to be trusted (past behavior) and is shunned accordingly, but probably every major company has bought their data at one point or another.  In many cases, the fault of what data is shared is on Facebook... PII (personally identifiable information) shouldn’t be shared, but is.

    I assume nefarious intentions until proven otherwise in Facebook’s case...

    I’ll withhold judgment on everyone else, but it is a bad look.  How long did Apple buy Facebook’s data (for example)?  Cook talks about Facebook when emphasizing Apple’s privacy stance.  This may or may not be hypocritical...  

    If the investigation implicates Apple as one of the guilty parties involved in buying FB data during the Cook era, that's going to look very bad on him and his privacy stance which will put him in huge trouble, possibly putting his job on the line. The question should be when did Apple stop buying data from FB or how recent that activity was. Either way, Cook can't play dumb and not know about it if investigators points the finger at the buyers including Apple. It's considerably bad and somewhat telling how hard Apple is trying to paint itself as a 'privacy saint' with all these ads and media blitz in regards to that topic. 

    But yes, more details are needed on what information Apple bought and used. 
    What an active imagination you have. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 322member
    Security is hard. Allowing users control of their information is required. 

    Tim Berners-Lee is heading up the SOLID project (Socially Linked Data) which promises users control of their data and more functionality than is currently available. Could this project offer a solution?
    cat52
  • Reply 11 of 14
    mnbob1mnbob1 Posts: 262member
    Up until iOS 11 (I think, maybe 12) Facebook and Twitter were very tightly integrated into IOS. So much so that there were settings in the Settings app to control them. It could have been at that time that Facebook was tapping into users private data. I'm grateful that Apple ended that integration. I always thought that was a little too invasive.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    pk22901pk22901 Posts: 138member
    But yes, more details are needed on what information Apple bought and used. 
    Apple's role? There's a report out saying that Apple was 'given' data privileges that they never asked for nor were they aware that they had those privileges!

    If TRUE, this is TERRIBLE for FB. It would show that they gave private data out willy-nilly to anyone, incuding those that didn't want data. This, despite their promise to the FTC to not sell private data.

    (Mark Z, "I got it! We won't sell the data; we'll trade the data! The FTC will never catch on!")
    edited March 14 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 16unconfirmed, member
    pk22901 said:
    But yes, more details are needed on what information Apple bought and used. 
    --------Apple's role? There's a report out saying that Apple was 'given' data privileges that they never asked for nor were they aware that they had those privileges!

    If TRUE, this is TERRIBLE for FB. It would show that they gave private data out willy-nilly to anyone, incuding those that didn't want data. This, despite their promise to the FTC to not sell private data.

    (Mark Z, "I got it! We won't sell the data; we'll trade the data! The FTC will never catch on!")------

    I find that hard to believe FB would just 'give out' data privileges to companies like Apple. That's not how it works. Information costs money. And yes, I'm aware of the existence of brokerage firms. However, for companies to get the data from FB, they have to be approached with an offer and buy it which Apple, as the investigators pointed to, got involved in at some point. 

    The case is the same with Google. They don't just give away data but sell them when there's an opportunity to. What a lot of people do not realize is that FB is cooperating with the investigation, not hindering or running away from it. Which means, they have to let them know exactly who got involved in the data transaction, when, and how much, and so on. 

    So in short, it doesn't look bad on just FB, it's on ALL of them including Apple. Don't you find their recent privacy commercial ad timing suspicious? 

    And in tandem with this kind of news, for those who are interested, where I live in Vermont, this state is the first one to pass and enact a law on data brokerage firms. See here:

    https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/2018/06/13/vermont-enacts-nations-first-data-broker-legislation/
    edited March 15
  • Reply 14 of 14
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 16unconfirmed, member
    kruegdude said:
    Some people here have blanked out Apple in:
    “Many companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Sony included -- have, or at one point had, some sort of deal with Facebook that gives them some access to user data.”

    Companies generally work around things like GDPR to do whatever they want.  Or, just accept the fines and continue business as usual...  I’d like to see the executives be held personally responsible.

    That said, I need a lot more details.  What personal information was shared?  Was it public info, or something that users should reasonably expect to be private? Like cell phones and email addresses? What did the purchasing companies use the data for?

    I know Facebook isn’t to be trusted (past behavior) and is shunned accordingly, but probably every major company has bought their data at one point or another.  In many cases, the fault of what data is shared is on Facebook... PII (personally identifiable information) shouldn’t be shared, but is.

    I assume nefarious intentions until proven otherwise in Facebook’s case...

    I’ll withhold judgment on everyone else, but it is a bad look.  How long did Apple buy Facebook’s data (for example)?  Cook talks about Facebook when emphasizing Apple’s privacy stance.  This may or may not be hypocritical...  

    If the investigation implicates Apple as one of the guilty parties involved in buying FB data during the Cook era, that's going to look very bad on him and his privacy stance which will put him in huge trouble, possibly putting his job on the line. The question should be when did Apple stop buying data from FB or how recent that activity was. Either way, Cook can't play dumb and not know about it if investigators points the finger at the buyers including Apple. It's considerably bad and somewhat telling how hard Apple is trying to paint itself as a 'privacy saint' with all these ads and media blitz in regards to that topic. 

    But yes, more details are needed on what information Apple bought and used. 
    What an active imagination you have. 
    Did you read the article? It points the finger to Apple as one of the buyers of FB data. It's called reality, not an active imagination. If implicated, Cook will have a huge problem and don't be surprised if he attempts to backtrack or go on a media blitz defending his company's privacy stance. Either way, that's damaging to Apple's image and could put his job on the line. He can't just sweep it under the rug or throw someone at his company under the bus to save his hide. He started the privacy narrative media blitz for the last several years now which, in turn, will appear hypocritical when implicated by the investigation. 

    Did you know that iCloud services is being used in Google's cloud? It used to be with Amazon and Microsoft's Azure. It's just one example how Apple doesn't like to talk about especially when it comes to privacy and data usage. 
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