SAN FRANCISCO – California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra asked a state court to force Facebook to turn over documents he says it has withheld from an ongoing probe into the social media giant’s privacy practices including the mishandling of tens of millions of users’ personal information in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
At a press conference, Beccera accused Facebook of stonewalling subpoenas from his office and thwarting his investigation into whether the company violated its users’ privacy and California law. He declined to discuss the specifics of the investigation.
“Facebook has not been responsive to our legal requests for information,” he said. “Any time we engage in an investigation and we issue lawful subpoenas and requests for information, we hope the subjects of those subpoenas will respond.”
Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.
Wednesday’s filing in San Francisco Superior Court is just the latest fallout from a string of privacy mishaps that have fueled public outrage and a backlash against big tech. Facebook was fined a record-setting $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission after a year-long probe prompted by the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal.
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Becerra has remained largely silent as bipartisan scrutiny of the top tech companies intensifies in Washington and statehouses around the country.
State attorneys general from four dozen states from New York to Texas have begun investigations into the market power of big tech companies, scrutinizing whether they stifle innovation and competitors, limit consumer choice or violate users’ privacy.
In Washington, congressional committees, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are also investigating big tech.
California’s top cop has not publicly stated whether he has joined other state’s top law enforcement officers in antitrust investigations of Facebook and Google. California is home to the nation’s most powerful technology companies and one of the most influential states in setting public policy for the tech sector.
Becerra, a Democrat who served in the House, has taken on big tech before and voiced concern that consumer data is held by a small but mighty group of corporations. His office is charged with developing and enforcing regulations for the California Consumer Privacy Act, legislation passed last year which gives consumers more rights over their online data.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Becerra said the new California law will mark a “watershed moment” for consumer rights when the privacy law takes effect next year.