Strike three: FTC says Meta still failing to protect user privacy


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Apr 24, 2016
The US Federal Trade Commission is preparing to take action against Facebook parent company Meta for a third time over claims it failed to protect user privacy, as required under a 2020 agreement Meta made with the regulator.

The FTC said that Meta has failed to fully comply with the order, and it also alleges Zuckercorp misled parents about safety features in its Messenger Kids app and misrepresented how much access app developers had to private user data.

According to the FTC, Meta's Messenger Kids app includes parental controls that restrict who children are allowed to interact with. There's a simple workaround for such restrictions, though: group chats and group video calls enabled unapproved contacts to get through whitelists, which the FTC said not only violates its previous agreement with Meta, but also the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The FTC also alleges that Meta didn't cut off third-party developer access to user data in 2018 as it agreed to do, with some outside developers able to access user data until mid-2020.

As a result, the FTC wants to modify its 2020 agreement with Meta to strengthen existing rules as well as adding a blanket prohibition against monetizing data collected from anyone under 18, as well as making any data harvested before an individual's 18th birthday permanently off limits for monetization.

Proposed changes also include a requirement similar to the FTC's agreement with Twitter that would pause the launch of all new products and services pending third-party assessment that the changes comply with the FTC's privacy requirements. The rules imposed on Meta by the FTC would be extended under the new order to include any future acquisitions by Meta and would expand limits on the use of facial recognition technology included in the 2020 order.

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

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