BOSTON: Massachusetts’ top court on Wednesday reversed an order requiring Facebook Inc to turn over to state Attorney General Maura Healey records identifying apps suspected of misusing customer data, but the justices said she ultimately could obtain some materials.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that while some of Facebook‘s records were protected from disclosure, Healey had demonstrated a “substantial need” for materials to investigate the social media company’s privacy practices following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Healey called the decision “yet another court ruling against Facebook’s attempt to hide information from the public about other app developers that may have engaged in misconduct like Cambridge Analytica.”
Facebook said it is reviewing the decision but appreciated confirmation that its records are privileged.
The records stemmed from a 2018 internal investigation overseen by the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher that Facebook launched following revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to data from as many as 87 million of the social media network’s users.
Former President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign hired Cambridge Analytica.
According to court papers, Facebook’s internal investigation led it to suspend 69,000 apps, mostly because their developers did not cooperate with the investigation. About 10,000 were identified as having potentially misused user info.
Healey, a Democrat, sued in 2019 to enforce the civil equivalent of a subpoena to obtain the apps’ identities.
Justice Scott Kafker, writing for the court, said a lower-court judge wrongly concluded Facebook’s information did not qualify as attorney “work product” potentially protected from disclosure.
But Kafker said further lower-court proceedings would likely determine that a “significant amount of information” could be disclosed.
Other states are also investigating, and the attorney general for Washington, D.C., has sued Facebook. In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to resolve a Federal Trade Commission probe into its privacy practices.