California investigating Facebook, demands subpoenaed documents

Clay Curtis
November 7, 2019

Because Facebook has failed to comply with the lawfully issued investigative subpoena and interrogatories served on June 17, 2019, Attorney General Becerra has filed a petition in superior court pursuant to section 11188 of the Government Code to enforce compliance with the Attorney General's investigative subpoena and interrogatories.

"To date we have provided thousands of pages of written responses and hundreds of thousands of documents", Will Castleberry, the company's vice president of state and local policy, said in an email.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra quickly shot back: "It appears we have different definitions of cooperation", noting there were 25 requests the company declined to answer or provide documents to fulfill. He said he was disclosing it because his office was making a public court filing to force Facebook to answer a June subpoena and interrogatories. It has refused to search the emails of top executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in response to the second subpoena.

California officials revealed that they're investigating Facebook Inc. over its privacy practices in a news conference this morning, just hours after the social network disclosed it had inadvertently made some user data accessible to outside app developers.

The probe's public disclosure adds to the list of legal and regulatory headaches staring down Facebook, which has come under fire for its policies on political speech and its handling of user data.

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Facebook is also facing other litigation stemming from Cambridge Analytica, including a class-action by users and a lawsuit by Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm, gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission. But we must move our investigation forward.

The Federal Trade Commission in July fined Facebook $5 billion, a record for the consumer protection agency, over the company's breaches of user privacy in 2014 and 2015.

Becerra said Facebook took more than a year to produce documents related to the management of its relationship with Cambridge Analytica and produced no documents in response to six document requests. "We are left with little choice but to seek a court order compelling Facebook to faithfully comply with our duly authorized subpoenas", Becerra said.

The subpoenas were issued as part of an investigation by the California Department of Justice into allegations that Facebook deceived users and misrepresented its privacy practices.

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