FTC Proposes Blanket Ban on Meta Monetizing Underage User Data Following Repeated Violations

FTC Meta ban on monetizing underage data
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FTC Meta ban on monetizing underage data
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Photo Credit: Muhammad Asyfaul

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing a blanket ban on Meta’s ability to monetize underage data. The move comes after repeated violations of a 2020 privacy order. 

These changes proposed by the FTC would be made to the 2020 privacy order made with Facebook. The FTC arranged that order after Facebook misled parents about their ability to control who their kids communicated with through the Messenger Kids app, and misrepresented the access it provided third-party app developers to private user data. 

“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” says Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures.”

The FTC is proposing changes that would prevent Meta from profiting from data it collects from users under the age of 18. That includes users of its virtual reality products, which Meta and Facebook have focused heavily 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 secured an order in 2012 barring it from misrepresenting its privacy practices to consumers. Facebook violated that first order within months of it being finalized, which helped fuel the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and necessitated another privacy protection order in 2019. 

“Today’s action alleges that Facebook has violated the 2020 order, as well as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA),” the FTC’s statement reads. The 2020 privacy order came with a $5 billion civil penalty and required an independent third-party assessor’s role in evaluating Facebook’s privacy protections. 

“The independent assessor, tasked with reviewing whether the company’s privacy program satisfied the 2020’s order’s requirements, identified several gaps and weaknesses in Facebook’s privacy program,” the FTC continues

Meta called the move a political stunt and couldn’t help but bring up TikTok’s position as the dominant social media platform in America for young people. “This is a political stunt. Despite three years of continual engagement with the FTC around our agreement, they provided no opportunity to discuss this new, totally 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 instead single out one American company while allowing Chinese companies like TikTok to operate without constraint on American soil.”