Tech

California AG reveals Facebook probe, says company has been dragging its feet

Key Points
  • New court documents filed Wednesday give the first look into the state of California's 18-month-long investigation into Facebook's privacy dealings.
  • In those documents, California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra says Facebook has failed to comply with its subpoenas for more information in the state's ongoing privacy investigation.
VIDEO1:3101:31
California has been investigating Facebook for 18 months

New court documents filed Wednesday give the first look into the state of California's 18-month-long investigation into Facebook's privacy dealings.

In those documents, California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra says Facebook has been "dragging its feet" by failing to comply with subpoenas for more information related to the state's ongoing privacy investigation into the company and Cambridge Analytica.

It represents the first time the state has acknowledged the probe into Facebook, which was first opened in 2018. Investigators don't typically disclose active probes, "unless there's a legal action that makes it public," Becerra said at a press conference announcing the filing.

"This is one of those times," Becerra said. "If Facebook had complied with our legitimate investigative requests, we would not be making these announcements today, but our work must move forward."

In a statement to CNBC, Will Castleberry, Facebook's VP of state and local policy said the company has "cooperated extensively" with the investigation, but did not address the state AG's filing that said it hasn't complied with subpoenas.

"We have cooperated extensively with the State of California's investigation," Castleberry said in the statement. "To date we have provided thousands of pages of written responses and hundreds of thousands of documents."

VIDEO0:3000:30
Facebook: We have cooperated extensively with California's probe

Becerra is now asking the San Francisco County Superior Court to require Facebook to comply with its requests for additional documents related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The information they're seeking to obtain includes communications among executives, documentation of any changes made to Facebook's privacy settings, as well as any documents detailing Facebook's privacy program.

The AG asked Facebook to provide documentation of any communication related various news stories related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, including reports from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

The AG says that Facebook has "refused to conduct a complete search for responsive documents" and has not searched emails of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg that might relate to its investigation. Facebook was similarly uncooperative throughout the Federal Trade Commission's previous probe into the company's privacy practices, the filing states.

The probe has expanded to look at third parties' access to user data, which was supplied by Facebook, including "which apps Facebook granted access to user data despite users restricting access to their information."

In 2018, prosecutors from the Northern District of California, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began probing Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The scandal erupted after it was revealed that 87 million users' data was improperly harvested and shared with the Trump-affiliated campaign research firm.