Responding to reports that a data firm employed by the Trump presidential campaign improperly harvested information on 50 million Facebook users, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Saturday launched a state investigation into the matter.
Citing a New York Times investigation into Cambridge Analytica — a British data-analysis outfit funded by New York billionaire Robert Mercer, a major underwriter of right-wing candidates and campaigns — Healey retweeted the story and announced the investigation Saturday afternoon.
“Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” Healey wrote on Twitter, leading it with the “#BREAKING” hashtag. “We are launching an investigation.”
The attorney general’s office confirmed by e-mail Saturday evening that they were opening a civil investigation and had been in touch with Facebook already to inform the social-media giant.
State investigators intend to learn more about what happened, when it happened, and whether Massachusetts residents were affected, Healey spokeswoman Emily Snyder said in the e-mail. The attorney general’s office will examine whether the reported breach violated Facebook policies while evaluating possible legal implications as well, she said.
Mercer and his family emerged over the last few years as lead donors behind the scenes of the ascendant antiestablishment and nationalist wings of the Republican Party, under the guidance of former Breitbart News executive director and ex-Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon.
Mercer made a rare foray into Massachusetts politcs last year, funding a series of radio attack ads that attempted to portray Senator Elizabeth Warren as phony and elitist.