Facebook must turn over information to the Massachusetts attorney general’s office regarding thousands of apps that the social media company suspects of misusing users’ data, a judge decided.
The order issued by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Brian Davis on Friday stated that Facebook has refused to turn over information about specific apps, groups of apps and developers that the platform has flagged as potentially problematic or worthy of further examination.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched an investigation in March 2018 following revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten data from millions of Facebook users through an app, then used the data to try to influence U.S. elections.
In response to the scandal, Facebook began looking into the apps that have access to its users’ data.
In September, Facebook announced it had suspended “tens of thousands of apps” made by about 400 third-party developers as part of its investigation. The announcement was made the same day legal documents were unsealed in Massachusetts revealing the company had suspended 69,000 apps. Facebook has made some disclosures, but has not announced the identities of the applications.
Facebook had argued that Healey’s office was seeking information from its own investigations that are protected by attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine — the protection of materials prepared in anticipation of litigation.
Healey’s office called the company’s arguments “meritless.”
“Consumers have a right to know how their personal information is used,” she said in a statement Friday. “Facebook simply telling its users that their data is safe without the facts to back it up does not work for us.”
Facebook is reviewing its options, including appeal, a spokesman said in a statement. The company was ordered to hand over the information within 90 days. A status conference for the case is set for March 31.
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