California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today in a press conference just miles away from Facebook’s headquarters that the social network was not complying with his office’s subpoenas in an ongoing privacy investigation.
According to a filing made public Wednesday, California’s Department of Justice has been investigating Facebook’s business practices since early 2018. Becerra also revealed that the state had issued two subpoenas since June 2018, requesting that Facebook hand over relevant documents concerning user privacy for its investigation.
“If Facebook had complied with our request, we would not be making this announcement,” said Becerra in the press conference. “But our work must move forward. We are left with little choice but to see a court order compelling Facebook to faithfully comply with our duly authorized subpoenas.”
There had been much speculation on why California was not named in New York’s multistate antitrust probe, which was first launched in September. New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced in October that 47 other states and territories had joined the probe—but not California. At the time, a spokesperson for Becerra told the San Francisco Chronicle that its office “can’t comment on, even to confirm or deny, a potential or ongoing investigation.”
But today Becerra revealed that the California Department of Justice had been investigating Facebook since the spring of 2018. Among other allegations, Becerra is investigating whether the social network had violated state law by deceiving users and misrepresenting privacy practices.
The investigations against Big Tech have been multipronged, both at the federal and state level. In July, the Department of Justice announced it was investigating Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple to see whether the companies had violated federal antitrust laws. In that same month, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $5 billion fine on Facebook for violating consumers’ privacy, the agency’s largest penalty in history. Then in September, James announced it was launching an investigation into Facebook to determine whether it had engaged in anticompetitive behavior, with participation from seven other states. In the following weeks, the probe grew to include 47 attorney generals.
Becerra filed the petition to enforce the state’s investigative subpoenas against Facebook on Wednesday morning in the San Francisco County Superior Court.