Becerra’s Facebook probe watched closely by tech firms

After keeping quiet for more than a year about the investigation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra confirmed last week that California is suing Facebook after a state probe found it had allegedly violated privacy laws.

In documents filed with the Superior Court in San Francisco, Becerra’s office said the probe began in June 2018 in response to the scandal involving the Cambridge Analytica political consulting firm, which had been given access to the online activities of 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The most prominent client of the firm, which closed last year, was the Trump presidential campaign in 2015-16.

“What initially began as an inquiry into the Cambridge Analytica scandal expanded over time to become an investigation into whether Facebook has violated California law by, among other things, deceiving users and ignoring its own policies,” the court filing noted.

The possibility that California was pursuing its own probe was detailed in an Oct. 31 story in the New York Times about Becerra’s absence from a meeting of state attorneys general in September in Washington in which they discussed a coordinated probe of Facebook and Google. Becerra continues to decline to answer if his office is investigating Google.

And the attorney general said the Facebook probe would still be unrevealed if it wasn’t for the fact that the Menlo Park-based company had stopped cooperating when given subpoenas. “If Facebook had complied with our legitimate investigative requests, we would not be making this announcement today. But we must move our investigation forward,” he said at a news conference.

The state’s complaints about Facebook not following its own policies and stonewalling investigations echoed those made by officials of the Obama and Trump administrations. These practices were cited in July when the Federal Trade Commission announced it had fined the social media giant $5 billion for privacy violations.

Probe seen as foreshadowing new state online privacy law

Becerra’s announcement was followed closely on tech websites not just because it ended the mystery about what his office was doing about Facebook when so many other states were pursuing the company. It’s also because the Golden State’s lawsuit is seen as a harbinger of how aggressively Becerra will act when the state’s landmark online privacy law – the California Consumer Privacy Act – takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The law was signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in summer 2018.

The state law is similar to a measure adopted by the European Union that took effect earlier in 2018. The EU law says consumers can opt out from having information collected about them. If they don’t opt out, consumers must be told upon request what information has been harvested from their online browsing.

Data companies are deeply worried that California’s standards will become the model for a future federal online privacy law and for measures adopted in other states. But many other firms are worried as well.

This summer, as CalWatchdog reported, the California Chamber of Commerce and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business launched a long-shot bid to get lawmakers to change their minds and either repeal or revise the state online privacy law.

Among the business groups’ complaints: The law is written so broadly that it may prevent businesses from using basic information gathered from repeat customers; and the law is so poorly crafted that it appears to bar businesses from using vast swaths of anonymized data showing online trends from a macro level. Such information is considered a crucial marketing tool.

Lawmakers passed on making any changes.

2 comments

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  1. Bogiewheel
    Bogiewheel 12 November, 2019, 16:49

    “the law is so poorly crafted”….Exactly, that why polititions construct the laws as they do, it leaves them wiggle room
    to harass the opposition

    Reply this comment
  2. Edward Ryan
    Edward Ryan 28 November, 2019, 13:54

    Los Angeles City Council Member Wesson; You are is totally silent on the “LAPD Crimebuster Vigilante Facebook Scandal” Why do you fail to do “Good Government” oversight to stop LAPD and Los Angeles City Attorney Corruption. Read the “National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Regional Advocacy Project” Complaint to California Attorney General Becerra. Becerra ignores the complaint even though LAPD vigilantes may of caused the death of the homeless man who is threatened on a video posted by the LAPD vigilantes and referred to in the complaint. The video described above is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gG9GIB_lWasLfELewlM_GVMheJL4iOMu/view?usp Vigilante Facebook Postings in the complaint show nine homeless being criminal victimize by LAPD vigilantes. These nine are later arrested, but not one LAPD report tells about the vigilante “Stalking” harassment that provoked the arrest. The Los Angeles City Council should demand LAPD to identify the homeless victims whose photos are in the complaint. The Council will see that the LAPD police reports do not report the truth. No facts of the “vigilante Harassment” provoking the arrest are in the LAPD Police Reports. LA City Attorney Feuer’s Topanga Neighborhood Prosecutor uses the false LAPD reports to Convict and incarcerate the homeless shown in the complaint. The Vigilante Groups “Crime busters of our West Hills and Woodland Hills” and “Homeless Transient Encampments of our West Valley” were started by LAPD vigilante Fern Peskin-White. She is a LAPD volunteer from the Topanga Community Police Station. The participation of LAPD officers in these groups gives tacit permission to vigilante acts. Members include: LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, former LAPD Deputy Chief John Sherman (ret. 2018), former LAPD SLO Brent Rygh (ret. 2018), LAPD Topanga At least the tobacco industry doesn’t have a coward LA Mayor Garcetti and vigilante acts by LAPD Officers who are members to the Crimebuster vigilante Facebook vigilante group Members include: LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, former LAPD Deputy Chief John Sherman (ret. 2018), former LAPD SLO Brent Rygh (ret. 2018), LAPD Topanga Division Sergeant Karen Rayner, LAPD Senior Lead Officer (SLO) Sean Dinse, LAPD SLO Duke Dao, LAPD SLO Daryl Scoggins, LAPD SLO Gabriel Ahedo, LAPD SLO John Catalano, LAPD SLO Kari McNamee, LAPD SLO Jose Fernandez, LAPD Officer William Jones, LAPD Topanga Police Service Representative Monica Fairbanks. Why are Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer and LAPD Chief Moore allowing LAPD Brass, LAPD Slo’s and Neighborhood Prosecutors to belong to Vigilante groups. Routine false LAPD reports of homeless arrest, who are provoked by “LAPD Vigilantes”, corrupt the Los Angeles Courts. The Los Angeles City Council reputation is already soiled by cooperating with Mayor Eric Garcetti “Pay For Play” corruption at Los Angeles City Hall. Please do not make it worse by not investigating these LAPD Vigilante Hate crimes onto the homeless. Demand the LAPD supply the names of all homeless shown in the Above mentioned complaint. Then review All LAPD police reports relating to their arrest. Then ask why the LAPD police reports do not mention the

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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