The Federal Trade Commission has alleged that Facebook parent company Meta violated its 2020 privacy order and is now proposing new protections for children and teens. According to the FTC Meta has “repeatedly violated” privacy rules and is calling for a “blanket prohibition against monetizing data of children and teens under 18.”
The 2020 privacy order required that Facebook pay a $5 billion civil penalty while expanding the required privacy program, as well as the independent third-party assessor’s role in evaluating the effectiveness of Facebook’s program.
The 2020 order required that Facebook perform a privacy assessment of each new or revised product, service, or procedure prior to its deployment, and maintain records of its determinations regarding risk mitigation.
Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that Facebook has fallen far short of expectations.
“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises. The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures.”
Under the proposed restrictions, Meta and its services, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus would face limitations on the usage of data obtained from children and teenagers. Specifically, the data collected by Meta could only be utilized for providing services or ensuring security, while any form of commercial exploitation, including data monetization, would be prohibited even after these individuals attain adulthood.
The FTC additionally proposes a “Pause on the launch of new products, services,” saying that “the company would be prohibited from releasing new or modified products, services, or features without written confirmation from the assessor that its privacy program is in full compliance with the order’s requirements and presents no material gaps or weaknesses.”
Other proposed changes include limits on future uses of facial recognition technology, which would expand the limits on the use of facial recognition technology included in the 2020 order.
According to the FTC the issuance of its Order to Show Cause marks the beginning of a proceeding in which Meta will have an opportunity to respond.
“After carefully considering the facts and any arguments by the parties, the Commission will ultimately determine whether modification of the 2020 order is in the public interest or justified by changed conditions of fact or law,” it said in a release.
“Totally unprecedented theory”
In response, Meta called the latest FTC proceedings a “political stunt” and that it will fight the findings.
“Despite three years of continual engagement with the FTC around our agreement, they provided no opportunity to discuss this new, totally unprecedented theory,” Meta spokesperson Christopher Sgro said.
“FTC Chair Lina Khan’s insistence on using any measure — however baseless – to antagonise American business has reached a new low. We have spent vast resources building and implementing an industry-leading privacy programme under the terms of our FTC agreement.”
This marks the first time the FTC has proposed a blanket ban on the use of data as part of an effort to protect the online privacy of minors.