Meta could be facing more restrictions on what it uses your data for, after the US Federal Trade Commission proposed that the company be prohibited from profiting off the information it collects from users under 18. Meta, which changed its name from Facebook in late 2021, still operates that social network, along with Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp.
“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement Wednesday. The FTC said Facebook failed to fully comply with a privacy order from 2020 that saw the company pay a $5 billion fine.
An independent assessor found that Facebook breached its 2012 and 2020 privacy orders by “continuing to give app developers access to users’ private information” until mid-2020, the FTC said. The agency also alleges that Facebook allowed children using its Messenger Kids app to communicate with unapproved contacts via group chats and group video calls between late 2017 and mid-2019, despite telling parents they could control who their kids could contact.
“The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures,” Levine added.
The FTC has proposed the following changes to the 2020 privacy order, which would apply to Meta services Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as to its VR effort Oculus:
- A prohibition against monetizing any data collected on users under the age of 18.
- A pause on launching new features, products and services without written approval from the assessor that there are no gaps or weaknesses in complying with the 2020 privacy order.
- A requirement to ensure that any companies Meta acquires or merges with also comply with the privacy order.
- A requirement to disclose any future uses of facial recognition and to obtain users’ permission in this area.
- A strengthening of Meta’s privacy reviews, third-party monitoring, data inventory and access controls and employee privacy training.
Meta head of communications Andy Stone called the FTC’s announcement 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,” Stone tweeted. “We have spent vast resources building and implementing an industry-leading privacy program under the terms of our FTC agreement. We will vigorously fight this action and expect to prevail.”
Stone also pointed to the privacy practices of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, which he said is allowed to “operate without constraint on American soil.” TikTok, however, has been facing Congress over concerns that it’s not safeguarding the data collected from the millions of Americans who use the video app, which has been described as a national security threat.
TikTok is facing a possible ban amid worry that US user data is being passed to the Chinese government, or that the Chinese government could potentially influence public opinion in the US by dictating what content is shown to US TikTok users.
Thanks to another Meta privacy case, if you used Facebook between May 24, 2007, and Dec. 22, 2022, you could be eligible for part of a $725 million settlement that Meta is paying out. It comes after a class-action lawsuit accused Facebook of improperly sharing users’ personal information with outside organizations, including Cambridge Analytica, a UK political consulting firm with ties to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.