The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that Facebook misled parents about their ability to control who their children communicated with through the company’s platforms, and the agency proposed new rules restricting the Big Tech company’s operations.
Facebook’s parent company Meta responded that it will fight the FTC’s actions and slammed the regulatory agency’s leader.
The FTC, which has exclusively Democratic commissioners, proposed on Wednesday to make changes to a 2020 privacy order to create new restrictions on how Meta collects data from young users. The proposed order would stop Meta from monetizing children’s data.
“Despite the company’s promises that children using Messenger Kids would only be able to communicate with contacts approved by their parents, children in certain circumstances were able to communicate with unapproved contacts in group text chats and group video calls,” the FTC said in a statement.
The FTC said Facebook also misrepresented the access it gave app developers to people’s private data, and alleged that Facebook violated previous agreements with the FTC in 2012 and 2020.
“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” said Samuel Levine, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director, in a statement. “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures.”
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Facebook, which rebranded as Meta in 2021, continued to give third-party app developers access to user data until mid-2020 despite pledging to implement new limitations in 2018 that restricted developers’ access under certain circumstances.
Meta spokesman Christopher Sgro said FTC Chair Lina Khan’s effort to antagonize American business hit a new low with its proposed action against Meta.
“This is a political stunt,” Mr. Sgro said in a statement. “Despite three years of continual engagement with the FTC around our agreement, they provided no opportunity to discuss this new, totally unprecedented theory. 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.”
The FTC and Meta have butted heads repeatedly. A federal judge rejected the FTC’s effort to block Meta from acquiring the virtual reality platform Within Unlimited earlier this year, and the FTC later dropped its internal review.
The last remaining Republican FTC commissioner, Christine Wilson, left the agency over what she labeled “lawlessness” by Ms. Khan, an appointee of President Biden. In an opinion article explaining her exit, Ms. Wilson cited Ms. Khan’s refusal to recuse herself from the internal review despite previously arguing in favor of blocking Meta from making any acquisitions.
The FTC said the proposed changes on Wednesday to its privacy order with Meta represent just the first step in the process for making changes. The regulatory agency gave Meta 30 days to respond to the agency’s actions.