California's attorney general reveals he's investigating Facebook over privacy issues, and says it's not complying with subpoenas

Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • California has been quietly investigating Facebook over privacy issues and its business model for more than a year.
  • On Wednesday, the state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra went public with that investigation for the first time.
  • He did so because, he said, Facebook has failed to comply with subpoenas requesting information.
  • It’s the latest headache for the Silicon Valley-based firm, which has lurched from scandal to scandal over the last two years.

California has quietly been investigating Facebook over potential privacy violations and Cambridge Analytica for more than a year. On Wednesday, it went public with that investigation – to announce that Facebook has been failing to comply with lawful subpoenas requesting information about its privacy practices.

In a court filing published Wednesday, California’s top government lawyer, Xavier Becerra, said that the Silicon Valley-based social network was dragging its feet over his demands for data, failing to properly answer some questions and outright refusing other requests.

Becerra’s office is currently engaged in an investigation into the business practices of Facebook and whether its approach to user privacy violates California law, the filing revealed.

Facebook has failed to properly respond to a subpoenas relating to this, the court filing said: “Facebook has provided no answers for nineteen interrogatories and produced no documents in response to six document requests. Facebook has also wholly refused to search communications involving senior executives for responsive materials. Thus, Facebook is … failing to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and interrogatories.”

Becerra’s office is now asking the San Francisco Superior Court to take action to force Facebook to comply with its requests.

At a press conference, Becerra said that this was why his office is now going public with the news of the investigation. “We make our work public when there is a legal action to make public, otherwise we do not discuss our investigations,” he said. “If Facebook had complied with our legitimate investigative requests, we would not be making this announcement today.”

The issue represents a fresh headache for Facebook, which has lurched from scandal to scandal over the last two years – and may result in more of its sensitive internal documents and communications becoming public. Also on Wednesday, 4,000 pages of documentation relating to Facebook’s approach to user data and privacy were made public, despite the social network fighting for months to keep them secret.

In an email, Facebook did not directly address whether it had failed to comply with any subpoenas. Will Castleberry, VP of state and local policy, said in a statement: “We have 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.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

Read more:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.