The Mounting Federal Investigations Into Facebook

Facebook now faces investigations into its business practices from a variety of federal agencies. Officials have opened inquiries into possible civil and criminal violations of laws related to privacy, corporate governance and discrimination.

Facebook has largely denied wrongdoing in each of the investigations and said it was cooperating with regulators and law enforcement.

Here are the agencies looking into Facebook, and some of the issues involved.

Federal Trade Commission

The top federal watchdog for consumer protection is investigating potential privacy violations by the social network. The inquiry began after reporting by The New York Times on the harvesting of Facebook user data by a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica. The investigation centers on whether Facebook broke promises it made in a consent decree in 2011, when it said it would tighten protections of user data and explain clearly to users how it handled sensitive data.

The company could face more than $1 billion in fines and tighter restrictions over its handling of data.

Securities and Exchange Commission

The S.EC. started investigating how much Facebook knew about the data harvested by Cambridge Analytica and if executives of the social network properly disclosed its findings. The agency protects shareholders from being misled by corporations by requiring that executives disclose risks and problems for their business.

Justice Department

The Justice Department’s securities fraud division is said to be investigating whether Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data on Facebook users. It is also investigating if Facebook properly disclosed what it knew about data-sharing with Cambridge Analytica before news reports revealed the practice.

Separately, the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is said to be conducting a criminal investigation into Facebook’s data-sharing partnerships with dozens of tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD has sued Facebook on claims that the company engaged in housing discrimination by allowing advertisers to restrict who is able to see ads based on race and other factors. Facebook, which has settled with civil rights groups over allegations of ad-based housing discrimination, is fighting the lawsuit.

Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.

Cecilia Kang covers technology and regulatory policy out of Washington. She joined The Times in 2015 after 10 years covering technology and business at The Washington Post. @ceciliakang

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