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Court reverses order requiring Facebook to disclose app records

Maura Healey

(Reuters) — The top court in Massachusetts on Wednesday reversed an order requiring Facebook Inc. to turn over to state Attorney General Maura Healey records identifying apps the company suspected had misused customer data, but the justices signaled she ultimately may obtain some materials.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned a judge's January 2020 order directing Facebook to disclose the records to Ms. Healey, a Democrat, as she investigates the social media company’s privacy practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Those records stemmed from an internal investigation that Facebook launched in 2018 after revelations that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly gained access to data from as many as 87 million of the social media network's users. Cambridge Analytica provided the data to help Republican former U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

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 information.

Justice Scott Kafker, writing for the 5-0 court, said that Facebook had demonstrated that the information qualified as attorney “work product” potentially protected from disclosure.

But Justice Kafker wrote that Ms. Healey had demonstrated a substantial need for the materials to investigate potential data misuse and that further lower-court proceedings would likely determine that a "significant amount of information" can be disclosed.

Representatives for Ms. Healey and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.





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