USA prosecutors probing Facebook's data deals

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Federal prosecutors in NY have reportedly begun a criminal investigation into Facebook and its data-sharing agreements with at least two smartphone manufacturers.

"We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously", a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

The Times reported that a NY grand jury has subpoenaed records from at least two companies that make smartphones and other equipment. But given the subpoenas, prosecutors seem to be looking at special arrangements Facebook made with companies to give them access to users' data (sometimes without consent), despite platform changes in 2014 that restricted the practice.

Facebook has been struggling to rehabilitate its public image amid revelations that it allowed Cambridge Analytica to improperly access the personal data of many of its users and the growing evidence of how its social network has been used to spread misinformation during the 2016 US Presidential elections.

The Times report emerged on the same day that Facebook saw widespread outages on its apps, including Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook said in July it had received questions from US agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI, and was cooperating.

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

The deals sparked outrage - and have come under sharp scrutiny - since they were revealed in a investigation by the Times past year.

When the grand jury investigation began and what it is focusing on are unclear, according to NYT. Facebook did not respond to questions about the focus or nature of the investigation.

Facebook has allegedly ended most of the partnerships over the past two years.

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