Meta Battles FTC Over Teens' Data

Meta Platforms on Wednesday asked a federal judge to prohibit the Federal Trade Commission from attempting to modify a 2020 consent decree by imposing new restrictions on the company, including a ban on monetizing minors' data.

In a motion filed with U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly in Washington, D.C., Meta says the FTC's effort to unilaterally revise the previous settlement is unconstitutional.

The FTC is “seeking to reopen and rewrite this court’s prior order and final judgment in violation of this court’s exclusive jurisdiction and Meta’s constitutional rights,” the company writes.

Meta argues that only a court -- not the FTC itself -- can order revisions to the consent decree, which Kelly approved in April of 2020.

Meta's motion comes in response to the FTC's May 3 proposal to prohibit Meta from using minors' data to fuel ad targeting or algorithms, and to impose new restrictions on the company's ability to launch products.

That proposal would modify a $5 billion consent decree stemming from allegations that the company allowed Cambridge Analytica and other outside developers access to users' data. The consent decree also required Meta to implement new privacy oversight, and called for an independent assessment of the program.

The FTC alleged earlier this month that an independent assessor “identified several gaps and weaknesses” in the company's privacy program, and that between 2017 and 2019, Meta's Messenger Kids had coding errors that allowed children to communicate with people who had not been approved by parents, in violation of representations about the service's features.

It's not clear how the allegations regarding Messenger Kids would have violated the consent decree, given that the coding errors occurred before the settlement was entered.

Meta says in its motion to Kelly that the FTC is now seeking “to impose onerous injunctive relief without ever having to prove a violation of law.”

“When the FTC has 'reason to believe' that laws or orders have been violated and seeks to adjudicate those violations, it issues a complaint,” Meta writes. “The FTC has instead invoked that same standard and commenced a proceeding ... that does not afford Meta the same rights to defend itself, or even a right to a hearing on the ultimate question of whether Meta violated any law or order.”

Unless blocked by a court, Meta must file a response to the FTC by August 1.

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