Facebook is facing criminal investigations relating to its data sharing deal with prominent companies. Records from Facebook and other big tech and media companies have been subpoenaed by a New York Grand Jury as part of the investigation.
The New York Times reported that more than 150 companies are being called in for questioning including Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. The companies were allegedly in partnership with Facebook that gave them access to personal data of hundreds of millions of users.
Facebook denies allegations
“We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously,” a Facebook spokesman told the Times. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.”
These most recent criminal investigations are just the latest in a string of inquiries into the company that started with the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. Facebook has been named in investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Big corporations are given open access
The social media giant was also sued by Washington DC late last year for allowing Cambridge Analytica to obtain personal data of users without permission. The data-sharing deals involved Facebook giving companies like Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon access to user data, after it had publicly claimed it had stopped sharing data with most third-parties.
At the time the deals were first reported by the Times, Facebook denied the arrangement breached user privacy or the company’s 2012 settlement with the FTC.
Zuckerberg wants to pivot
In a recent blog post, Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for the company that would see it move away from a social network towards private encrypted messaging.
“As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
Many may be skeptical that Facebook could manage to provide a service that is truly private. It’s previous business models revolve around the sale of data for companies for them to create targeted advertising.
But according to Zuckerberg’s blog, this will change. “People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared,” Zuckerberg wrote.
“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure, and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”
Would you trust Facebook to provide an encrypted private messaging service? The sector is still small but is already growing strongly with other services like Telegram and Signal pushing out bigger providers like Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
Interesting Engineering will continue to report on the Facebook investigation as it unfolds.