The US’s primary data privacy regulator has accused Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, of failing to implement adequate parental controls. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommended that Meta be barred from profiting off of children’s data.
According to the FTC, “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures.” Meta, on the other hand, has countered the regulator’s actions, calling it a “political stunt” and accusing it of exceeding its authority.
An autonomous investigation conducted by the FTC found that Facebook’s privacy program had “various gaps and deficiencies” that posed significant risks to the general public. Furthermore, it was discovered that users under the age of 13 were permitted to participate in chats with contacts that had not been vetted by their parents.
The regulator also claimed that despite promising to cut off access if users had not utilized third-party apps in the preceding 90 days, Meta continued to grant these apps access to private data.
The FTC has put forward a number of proposals, which include prohibiting the monetisation of data belonging to children and teenagers below the age of 18. Additionally, it has suggested that Meta refrain from launching new products until it can ensure full compliance with privacy regulations.
The regulator has also recommended restrictions on the future use of facial recognition technology. To this end, Meta would be obligated to inform users of any future employment of facial recognition technology and obtain their explicit consent.
According to Meta’s spokesperson, Andy Stone, the regulatory move is a “political stunt,” singling out Meta while Chinese firms like TikTok operate freely on American soil. Stone also accused Lina Khan, the FTC’s chairperson, of antagonizing American businesses.
The FTC’s case began in 2018 following the discovery that Cambridge Analytica had obtained the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users. The regulator has since sought to rein in Big Tech’s influence, but companies like Meta believe they are being unfairly targeted.
Mr Stone argued that, “Despite three years of continual engagement with the FTC around our agreement, they provided no opportunity to discuss this new, totally unprecedented theory.” In contrast, the FTC claims that Meta has repeatedly breached its privacy commitments and seeks stronger measures to safeguard younger users.