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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Brando

California’s Attorney General accuses Facebook of failure to comply with dozens of subpoenas

By Rebecca Brando, November 6, 2019

Will Mark Zuckerberg be held accountable for Facebook’s plethora of privacy violations?

California's Attorney General investigating the Cambridge Analytica scandal reveals Facebook refusing to comply with subpoenas. California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra has accused Facebook for failing to cooperate with his inquiry, to provide documents in the state’s investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

The attorney general said, according to this filing in San Francisco County, Facebook has ignored two sets of subpoenas for the investigation which started more than a year ago. The filing states that Facebook has provided no answers for nineteen interrogatories and no documents in response to six requests. Since, the investigation has expanded to include Facebook’s data sharing practices to third-party apps and Facebook’s disclosures to users and use of its privacy settings.

California is probing Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to provide documents and communications regarding the company’s privacy policy from its top executives.

The attorney general’s subpoena seeks communications among executives on

  • Any consideration of the need to audit developers’ access to user data.

  • Third parties who received expanded access to the data.

  • The relationship between ad spending and access to data.

In March 2018, the corrupt practices of Cambridge Analytica’s business were exposed by The New York Times and The Observer who reported the British company had acquired and abused personal data from over 87 million Facebook users under the pretense that Cambridge Analytica was collecting the data for academic purposes. Instead, the company sold Facebook user information to clients, which included Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion dollars for violating a privacy decree in 2012, which demanded that the company engage in better privacy protections of its users’ data. Facebook’s vice president, Will Castleberry responded, saying that the company had cooperated with California’s investigation.

According to Reuters; Castleberry said the Facebook has “cooperated extensively with the state of California’s investigation.”

“To date we have provided thousands of pages of written responses and hundreds of thousands of documents,” Castleberry said.

Becerra quickly responded: “It appears we have different definitions of cooperation,” noting there were 25 requests the company declined to answer or provide documents to fulfill.

Mr. Becerra became the attorney general of California in 2017. His office proposed draft rules last month to address and protect the data rights consumers receive under the California Consumer Privacy Act. California’s new privacy law will go into effect in 2020, making Mr. Becerra one of the top privacy enforcers in the United States.

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