On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission proposed sweeping changes to how Meta operates, accusing the company of violating a series of children’s privacy protections, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
In a press release, the agency alleged Meta breached a 2020 confidentiality order she entered into with the agency to resolve her role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The proposal cites cases in which the company has misled parents about the extent of their abilities to control who their children communicate with through services such as Messenger Kids and has misrepresented the access the company grants to developers. third-party apps to private user data.
“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau. “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk and Facebook must answer for its failures.”
The FTC’s proposed changes would prohibit Meta, Facebook and the rest of the company’s properties from monetizing the data of children under 18. It would also prevent the company from launching new products or services without the green light of an independent privacy assessor 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 Meta might merge with in the future.
Responding to Wednesday’s FTC proposal, Meta spokesman Andy Stone called it a “political stunt,” accusing the agency of attempting “to usurp the authority of Congress to set standards at industry-wide”. Later that day, Meta posted a longer version of the response on its corporate blog, writing, “None of these issues justify the drastic changes the FTC is seeking just three years after our contract began. several decades – and which the FTC has no unilateral authority to impose.”
“FTC Chair Lina Khan’s insistence on using any measure – however baseless – to antagonize American businesses has hit a new low,” Stone said in a statement to The edge Wednesday. “We will vigorously fight this action and hope to prevail.”
Although he voted to go ahead with the proposal, Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya issued a statement questioning the FTC’s authority to change its orders in this manner. “I look forward to hearing additional information and arguments and will consider these issues with an open mind,” he said.
The alleged violations stem from an independent reviewer’s review of Meta’s privacy protections. The assessor was first set up following the 2020 order and tasked with verifying whether Meta’s privacy protections met FTC standards. According to the FTC, the assessor “identified several gaps and weaknesses” in the company’s privacy practices.
The FTC’s proposal is just the first step in a process to strengthen Meta’s privacy and security practices. According to Wednesday’s press release, the FTC has asked Meta to respond within 30 days to its findings and proposal. After receiving Meta’s response, the agency would then vote on whether to modify or adopt the proposed rules.
Updated May 5, 12:45 a.m. ET: Added link to Meta’s full answer.