FTC is trying to ban Meta from profiting from children’s data

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission proposed sweeping changes to how Meta operates, accusing the company of violating a range of children’s privacy protections, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

In a press release, the agency alleged that Meta violated a 2020 privacy order it reached with the agency to resolve its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The proposal cites instances where the company misled parents about their ability to control who their children communicate with on services like Messenger Kids and misrepresented the access the company grants third-party app developers to private user data.

“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC consumer protection agency. “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk and Facebook must answer for its failures.”

The FTC’s proposed changes would ban Meta, Facebook and the rest of the company’s properties from monetizing the data of children under the age of 18. It would also prevent the company from launching new products or services without the green light from an independent privacy reviewer and would require explicit user consent for any new use of facial recognition technology.

These new rules would apply to Facebook and Meta’s other platforms, including Instagram, Oculus and WhatsApp. It would also cover any new companies that Meta might merge with in the future.

Responding to the FTC’s proposal on Wednesday, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone called it a “political stunt,” accusing the agency of trying to “usurp the authority of Congress to set industry-wide standards.” Later in the day, Meta released a longer version of the response on its corporate blog, writing, “None of these issues justifies the drastic changes the FTC is pursuing after just three years in our decades-long agreement — and that the FTC lacks unilateral authority. impose.”

“FTC Chair Lina Khan’s insistence on using any measure — no matter how unwarranted — to antagonize corporate America has reached a new low,” Stone said in a statement to The edge Wednesday. “We will fight this action vigorously and expect to prevail.”

Despite votes to move forward with the proposal, Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya issued a statement casting doubt on the FTC’s authority to change its orders in this way. “I look forward to additional information and arguments and will look at these issues with an open mind,” he said.

The alleged violations stemmed from an independent reviewer’s review of Meta’s privacy protections. First implemented after the 2020 order, the reviewer was put in charge of assessing whether Meta’s privacy protections met FTC standards. According to the FTC, the reviewer identified “several gaps and weaknesses” in the company’s privacy practices.

The FTC’s proposal is just the first step in a process to improve Meta’s privacy and security practices. According to Wednesday’s press release, the FTC has asked Meta to respond to its findings and proposal within 30 days. After receiving Meta’s response, the agency would vote on whether or not to change the proposed rules.

Update May 5 at 12:45 PM ET: Added link to Meta’s full response.

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