BOSTON — Following three civil subpoenas issued by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office in the wake of the 2017 Cambridge Analytica controversy, the Suffolk County Superior Court ruled on Friday that Facebook must provide information regarding potentially thousands of third-party apps suspected of compromising personal data.
The order, issued by Judge Brian Davis, stated the social media giant has refused to share information about both apps and developers deemed potentially problematic or worthy of further examination in connection with possible civil proceedings.
“Consumers have a right to know how their personal information is used," said Attorney General Maura Healey over the weekend. "It’s time for Facebook to tell us which app developers may be misusing your data.”
Healey’s office launched an investigation in 2018 following revelations that former UK based consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data from a reported 87 million Facebook users, using the information to influence and manipulate the 2016 campaign of President Trump. Cambridge Analytica’s involvement with the campaign was further reinforced by Trump’s decision to nominate former CA vice president Steve Bannon as White House Chief Strategist during the first seven months of his term.
Cambridge Analytica pled guilty in a UK court last year to breaking EU data privacy laws, while Facebook was fined $5 billion as well as the establishment of new privacy regulations by the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook had argued that Healey’s investigation conflicted with their own internal review of Cambridge Analytica’s access, claiming attorney-client privilege and the legally mandated protection of materials prepared in anticipation of litigation—an argument Healey claimed is “meritless.” Davis had previously expressed skepticism that Facebook’s own internal review into apps they claim constituted privileged data was irrelevant to the scope of a civil investigation.
A spokesperson from Facebook told the New York Times they were “disappointed that the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Court didn’t fully consider our arguments on well-established law, including the work product doctrine,” indicating they’re currently planning on reviewing a potential option to appeal.
Facebook has been ordered to hand over information relevant to the probe within 90 days. A status conference for the case is set for March 31.
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