Meta Fights Proposed Restrictions On Teens' Data

The Federal Trade Commission's attempt to revise its 2019 privacy settlement with Meta Platforms by prohibiting the company from monetizing teens' data is “unlawful at every step,” the tech company argues.

“At its core, the Commission simply wants a do-over -- to add entirely new terms that were not and would not have been included in 2019,” Meta argues in papers filed this week with the FTC. “The law is clear that it cannot do so.”

The company's argument comes in response to the FTC's attempt to modify the prior settlement by adding new terms that would prevent Meta from using minors' data to fuel ad targeting or algorithms. (Meta currently lets marketers send targeted ads to teens based on their age and location.) 



The original settlement -- agreed to in 2019 and approved by a federal judge in 2020 -- stemmed from allegations that Meta allowed Cambridge Analytica and other outside developers to access users' data. The deal required Meta to pay $5 billion, implement new privacy oversight and obtain an independent assessment.

That settlement also immunized Meta from new charges based on privacy violations that were known to the FTC on June 19, 2019.

Last May, the FTC alleged that Meta had violated the settlement and proposed new terms.

Among other charges, the FTC alleged that between 2017 and July 2019, Meta's Messenger Kids had coding errors that allowed children to communicate with people who hadn't been approved by parents, in violation of representations about the feature.

The agency also alleged that between 2018 and 2020, a coding glitch allowed developers to obtain some information about users who had been inactive for at least 90 days, in violation of Meta's promise to prevent developers from accessing inactive users' data.

Meta argues in its new papers that those alleged violations only amount to foreseeable “technical errors” that don't justify the FTC's attempt to reopen the settlement.

“Meta self-identified the errors, remediated the errors quickly, and timely disclosed the matters to the Commission and to users,” the company writes. “Additionally, the technical errors affected only limited users, for brief periods of time, almost entirely prior to the issuance of the order.”

The tech company also argues that the FTC lacks authority to unilaterally revise an order that was entered with Meta's consent and approved by a federal judge.

“Meta would never have agreed to pay $5 billion and to conform its conduct to stipulated terms if those terms could be used only as a baseline for exponentially more onerous and restrictive relief that would bind Meta for two decades,” the company writes.

“Rewriting the parties’ agreement after Meta waived the right to contest the original complaint is a flagrant violation of due process,” Meta adds.

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