October 3, 2023

The Federal Trade Commission escalated its fight against the tech industry’s biggest companies on Wednesday as it began a “blanket ban” on Facebook parent Meta’s collection of personal data on young people.

The commission wants to significantly expand a record-breaking $5 billion consent decree with the company from 2020, saying Meta has failed to fully meet its commitments to overhaul its privacy practices to better protect its users. legal commitment.

The regulator also said Meta misled parents into thinking they had the ability to control who their kids communicated with on its Messenger Kids app and misrepresented the permissions it granted certain app developers to access users’ private data.

The proposed changes mark the third time the agency has taken action against the social media giant over privacy concerns.

“The company’s reckless actions put young users at risk,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press statement. “Facebook needs to be held accountable for its failure.”

The FTC’s administrative action, known as an “order of cause,” sets out the commission’s charges against Meta and its proposed restrictions. The FTC’s proposed changes would prohibit Meta from profiting from the data it collects from users under the age of 18, including through Facebook, Instagram, Oculus headsets and the company’s new virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds. Regulators want to bar the company from using the data even after those young users turn 18.

That means Meta could be banned from using details about young people’s activities to show them ads based on their behavior or prompt them to buy digital goods, such as virtual clothes for their avatars.

The proposed changes could have significant financial implications, as user data is key to Meta’s advertising business, which is how Meta earns the vast majority of its revenue.

The aggressive move marks the first time the commission has proposed a blanket ban on data use to protect minors’ privacy online. The government has taken the broadest move to insulate young Americans online since the 1990s, when the commercial internet was still in its infancy.

Legislators in at least two states introduced bills last year that would require certain sites, such as social networks, to ban or limit young adulthood people. Regulators are also stepping up efforts to impose fines on online services whose use or misuse of data could put children at risk.

Over the past few years, critics have accused Meta of recommending self-harm and extreme dieting to teenage girls on Instagram, as well as failing to adequately protect young users from child sexual exploitation.

Meta had 30 days to challenge the application, but the FTC gave no advance notice of the action

This is a developing story. Check for updates.


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