FTC proposes blanket ban on meta-monetization of underage user data after repeated violations

Photo credit: Muhammad Asyfaul

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing a blanket ban on Meta’s ability to monetize data from minors. The move comes after repeated breaches of a 2020 data protection regulation.

These changes proposed by the FTC would be made to the 2020 Privacy Policy enacted with Facebook. The FTC issued the order after Facebook misled parents that they could use the Messenger Kids app to control who their children communicated with and misconstrued the access it gave third-party app developers to private user data had presented.

“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 mistakes.”

The FTC proposes changes that would prevent Meta from benefiting from data it collects from users under the age of 18. This includes users of its virtual reality products, which Meta and Facebook have been heavily focused on since 2020. The FTC points out that this is the third time the government organization has taken action against Meta for failing to protect user privacy.

The Commission filed a complaint against Facebook in 2011 and obtained an order in 2012 prohibiting Facebook from misrepresenting its privacy practices to consumers. Facebook violated that first order just months after its completion, which helped fuel the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and necessitated another privacy order in 2019.

“Today’s lawsuit alleges that Facebook violated the Regulations of 2020 and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA),” the FTC said in a statement. The 2020 Privacy Regulations carried a $5 billion civil penalty and required an independent third-party assessor to evaluate Facebook’s privacy.

“The independent assessor hired to review whether the company’s privacy program complied with the requirements of the 2020 regulation identified several loopholes and weaknesses in Facebook’s privacy program,” according to the FTC continues.

Meta called the move a political ploy and couldn’t help but highlight TikTok’s position as the dominant social media platform for young people in America. “It’s a political ploy. Despite three years of continuous cooperation with the FTC under our agreement, they did not provide an opportunity to discuss this new, completely unprecedented theory,” Meta said in a statement.

“Let’s be clear about what the FTC is trying to do. usurp the authority of Congress to set industry-wide standards and single out one American company instead, while allowing Chinese companies like TikTok to operate on American soil without restrictions.”