The scrutiny of Facebook's handling of the personal data of its users intensifies, while Mark Zuckerberg's company tries to recover and clean up its reputation after a year marked by scandals surrounding its privacy policies. Federal prosecutors in the United States are conducting a criminal investigation into the agreements that the social network signed with some of the largest technology companies, as reported on Wednesday The New York Times.
A grand jury has requested in New York the records of at least two mobile manufacturers and other devices, which had been associated with Facebook to obtain access to personal information of hundreds of millions of users of the social network, according to two anonymous sources quoted by the New York newspaper. The fact that the prosecution has ordered a grand jury, a citizens' body that can request evidence and take subpoenas, implies that there is sufficient evidence to reach a trial.
Up to 150 companies, including Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, had signed such agreements with Facebook. Zuckerberg's company defends these agreements, claiming that in no case did they offer their partners access to information without the users' permission. The clarity in the process by which the social network obtained the permission of the users on their data, after the scandals, has been object of criticism and intense public debate.
The company of Zuckerberg faces diverse investigations and demands in the United States, carried out by diverse federal and state organisms, as well as in other countries. These investigate such agreements, as well as the transfer of personal data of up to 87 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a turbid British consultancy, already closed down besieged by scandals, who worked, among other international clients, for the electoral campaign of Donald Trump facing the 2016 presidential elections.
"We are cooperating with the investigators and we take their inquiries very seriously," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The New York Times. "We have given public testimony, answered questions and promised that we will continue to do so."
The revelations made a year ago about Cambridge Analytica, and its use for electoral purposes of millions of personal data from the social network supposedly obtained to test a digital psychological test for academic purposes, led Facebook to the biggest crisis of its 15-year history . This was exacerbated by the information on data transfer agreements with other technology companies. The crisis has contributed to Zuckerberg's thinking reorient the business model: last week announced a plan that will gradually transform Facebook from a platform to share with the public a network that prioritizes private communications.