Skip to main content

Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc.'s F8 developers conference in San Jose, Calif., on April 30, 2019.

STEPHEN LAM/Reuters

Facebook Inc. has been ordered by a Massachusetts judge to turn over material to the state’s attorney-general about thousands of apps that the social media company suspected may have misused customer data.

In a decision made public on Friday, Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Brian Davis said Attorney-General Maura Healey had demonstrated a “substantial need” for the material, as she investigates Facebook’s privacy practices.

Healey began her probe in March 2018, following news that Facebook had let British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica access data for as many as 87 million users.

Story continues below advertisement

Cambridge’s clients had included U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Davis said Facebook did not show that most of the material Healey sought, including the identities of developers behind suspect apps, was protected by attorney-client privilege or an attorney “work product” that did not need to be disclosed.

“Only Facebook knows the identity of these apps and developers, and there is no other way for the attorney general to obtain this information on her own,” Davis wrote.

Facebook said it was reviewing its options and may appeal.

“We are disappointed that the Massachusetts Attorney-General and the court didn’t fully consider our arguments on well-established law, including the work product doctrine,” it said.

According to court papers, the Menlo Park, California-based company’s own probe led it to suspend 69,000 apps last September, mostly because their developers did not cooperate.

About 10,000 of these apps were found to have potentially misused user data.

Story continues below advertisement

Healey welcomed Davis’ decision, which is dated Jan. 16.

“Facebook simply telling its users that their data is safe without the facts to back it up does not work for us,” Healey said in a statement. “We are pleased that the court ordered Facebook to tell our office which other app developers may have engaged in conduct like Cambridge Analytica.”

The judge gave Facebook 90 days to turn over the material Healey sought.

Healey’s probe is one of several by state attorneys general regarding Facebook’s ability to protect user data.

Last July, Facebook agreed to pay a record US$5-billion fine to resolve a U.S. Federal Trade Commission probe into its privacy practices.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies