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UPDATE 1-Facebook must disclose app records for Massachusetts probe, judge rules

Fri, 17th Jan 2020 23:21

(Adds Facebook comment, paragraph 7-8)

By Jonathan Stempel

Jan 17 (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.

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

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.

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 $5 billion fine
to resolve a U.S. Federal Trade Commission probe into its
privacy practices.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Sonya
Hepinstall and Tom Brown)

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