The screen on an Apple Inc. iPhone displays the word ‘Data ?’ against a backdrop of the Facebook Inc. logo displayed on a computer screen in this arranged photograph in London. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

Facebook Judge Poised To Block Media Access To Internal Records

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is poised to win a ruling blocking the release of thousands of pages of internal documents -- and spare itself further bruising over user privacy.

A California state judge tentatively ruled Wednesday against an app developer and media organizations that are seeking public release of a trove of company records and emails that were filed in a lawsuit. Some of the material relates to how Facebook executives developed policies and practices on privacy in recent years.

In the lawsuit, brought by the makers of a short-lived app that allowed users to find photos posted of friends in bikinis, the world’s largest social network is accused of reneging on promises to app developers when it cut off their access to friends data in 2015.

Facebook denies the allegations in the case and argued that the developer’s request to unseal the documents is “a transparent effort to overwhelm the court and harass Facebook by attempting to expose confidential information that has no bearing on the pending motions.”

The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press contended that the documents could help answer questions of great public interest about how Facebook handled user data.

"The case may provide insight into how third-party access to a back-door channel to friends’ data allowed others to gather basic profile information on millions of Facebook users and provide that data to others seeking to influence voters in the 2016 election,” the media companies said in a court filing. “It may also test the veracity of statements made before the United States Congress by Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg about third—party access to its user’s data and its privacy practices and policies during the relevant time period.”

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge V. Raymond Swope said in his tentative ruling that the request by the media organizations was “procedurally premature.” He also wrote that the app developer, Six4Three LLC, didn’t convince him that the contested Facebook documents are relevant to the case and accused the company’s lawyers of engaging in “brute litigation overkill.”

Swope said a handful of exhibits should be in the public record because Facebook didn’t ask for them to be sealed. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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