- The Federal Trade Commission has proposed blocking Facebook parent company Meta from monetizing children’s data after it said the company violated a 2020 privacy order, the agency announced Wednesday.
- According to the Federal Trade Commission, an independent evaluator found “numerous loopholes and vulnerabilities in Facebook’s privacy software” that pose “significant risks to the public.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Meta Platforms Inc. , left, arrives at Federal Courthouse in San Jose, California, United States, on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.
David Paul Morris | bloomberg | Getty Images
The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday proposed blocking Facebook parent company Meta from monetizing children’s data after it said the company violated a 2020 privacy order.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, an independent evaluator found “numerous loopholes and vulnerabilities in Facebook’s privacy software” that pose “significant risks to the public.”
The company agreed to independent assessments of its updated privacy program as part of the 2020 settlement, under which Facebook paid a $5 billion civil fine following the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The FTC alleges that Facebook also violated a prior 2012 order by continuing to allow app developers access to private user information. Facebook allowed third-party apps to access user data until the middle of 2020 in some cases, the FTC claims.
The FTC is also accusing Meta of violating a children’s online privacy protection rule by misrepresenting parental controls on its Messenger Kids app. COPPA requires parental consent for websites to collect personal information from children under 13. The FTC alleged that while the company marketed that the app would only allow children to speak with parent-approved contacts, children were able to communicate with additional contacts in group chats or group video calls in some circumstances.
As a result, the FTC is proposing to strengthen the terms of the 2020 agreement to place additional restrictions on the company, which would apply to all Meta services including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus. The proposed terms include a blanket ban on data monetization from users under the age of 18. This means that any data collected from such users can only be used for security reasons and any data collected while users are under age cannot be monetized later once they reach the age of 18.
The FTC is also seeking to impose a moratorium on a company’s ability to launch new or modified products or services until the independent evaluator certifies in writing that the Meta Privacy Program fully complies with the terms of the agreement. Compliance with the 2020 order also extends to any company that Meta acquires or merges with.
The proposal would also require Meta to obtain affirmative consent from users for future use of facial recognition technology.
The agency has given Meta 30 days to respond to the FTC’s findings. After a meta response, the committee will decide whether updating the 2020 order is “in the public interest or justified by changing circumstances of fact or law.”
The commission, which currently has no Republicans serving on a five-member panel due to the recent resignations, voted 3-0 to approve the order to show why.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone named The FTC’s move is a “political stunt”.
“Despite three years of continued engagement with the FTC on our agreement, it has not provided any opportunity to discuss this completely unprecedented new theory,” Stone said. “We have spent tremendous resources building and implementing an industry-leading privacy program under the terms of our FTC agreement. We will fight this measure vigorously and expect it to prevail.”
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