WASHINGTON — California’s attorney general on Wednesday said he was investigating Facebook’s privacy practices and accused the company of failing to cooperate with his inquiry, in the social network’s latest fight over how it treats user information.
In a lawsuit filed by the attorney general, Xavier Becerra, the state said that over an 18-month period, Facebook had resisted or ignored dozens of questions and requests for documents, including email correspondence between executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s top two leaders. Mr. Becerra filed the lawsuit in the California Superior Court to obtain the communications.
The lawsuit was the first confirmation of an investigation by California into Facebook’s privacy practices.
“Today we make this information public because we have no choice,” said Mr. Becerra, who, unlike almost every other state attorney general, had been quiet about whether he was looking into any of the country’s biggest tech companies.
Facebook argued that it had cooperated with California’s investigation.
“To date we have provided thousands of pages of written responses and hundreds of thousands of documents,” Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy, said in a statement.
The California inquiry adds to the intense scrutiny of Facebook’s business in recent years, much of it set off by reports in The New York Times in March 2018 that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested troves of Facebook data to compile voter profiles. The company has faced questions about whether its ad-targeting business model impinges on user privacy, how its platform was used to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election and how it may have acquired start-ups to eliminate potentially formidable competitors.
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