Facebook under new criminal investigation for its data-sharing deals

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the Elysee presidential palace in Paris

According to the sources, both of these companies had partnerships with Facebook that granted them access to the personal information of its users. 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.

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

The probe constitutes a sharp escalation of Facebook's legal problems in the United States of America, where it is under scrutiny from four separate government agencies, including the U.S. justice department, as well as from legislators.

News of the criminal investigation is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the two billion-member social networking giant. Facebook said in July it had received questions from USA agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI, and was cooperating.

As if to underscore the company's challenges, Facebook's social network suffered one of the worst technical outages in its history on Wednesday, leaving users and advertisers unable to access the site for much of the day. But a criminal investigation would raise the stakes significantly.

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The Times reports that it is not clear when the inquiry began or exactly what it is focusing on.

Facebook has defended the deals.

News of the controversial agreements emerged in June when the Times reported that Facebook had agreed to provide access to large amounts of user data to at least 60 different device makers - including companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and BlackBerry.

Numerous partnerships ended years ago, the Times noted, but the deals with Amazon and Apple were ongoing at the time of the story.

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