Federal Judge Lets FTC Continue with Restrictions Against Meta
2023-11-30 01:10:33 Author: securityboulevard.com(查看原文) 阅读量:11 收藏

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A federal court judge gave U.S. regulators the green light to prohibit Meta from monetizing the data its various entities – including Facebook and Instagram – collect from users under the age of 18, one of several restrictions the Federal Trade Commission said in May it would put on the giant social media company.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly’s 17-page ruling Monday is primarily based on technicalities, saying he lacked the enforcement jurisdiction to intervene and could not rule on the merits of Meta’s arguments against the FTC privacy restrictions.

Meta on Tuesday filed a notice of appeal of the decision in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision is another blow in Meta’s (nee Facebook) decade-plus long battle with the FTC over privacy issues and adds to ongoing criticism of how it handles the data of its billions of users, including children. The company a month ago was sued by attorneys general from 33 states for the allegedly addictive features like infinite news feeds and constant alerts on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms that harm underaged youth and for selling kids’ personal data.

The lawsuit was unsealed this month, giving clearer details of the accusations.

An Ongoing Struggle

They are the kinds of issues FTC regulators have targeted Meta over since filing its first administrative complaint in 2011 about the company’s privacy practices. That was filed by an administrative order the next year, which the FTC in 2019 said Meta – then called Facebook – had violated. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the company.

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A year later, the court issued another order and levied a $5 billion fine against Meta. In May, the FTC proposed changes to the 2020 privacy order, with Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, saying in statement that “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.”

The changes – which included not only Facebook and Instagram but also services like WhatsApp and Oculus virtual reality – including the “blanket prohibition” from making money from data of users 18 and younger as well as several other restrictions, including limiting the use of facial recognition technology and instituting a pause on new or modified products, services, and features unless the independent assessor – a provision created through the 2020 agreement to determine whether Meta’s privacy program abides by the order – gives a written OK.

According to the FTC, the assessor notified regulators about gaps and weaknesses in Meta’s program, adding that the “breadth and significance of these deficiencies pose substantial risks to the public.”

The assessor’s findings, catalogued in an Order to Show Cause filed in May, “also alleges that Facebook violated both the 2012 and 2020 orders by continuing to give app developers access to users’ private information after promising in 2018 to cut off such access if users had not used those apps in the previous 90 days. In certain circumstances, Facebook continued to allow third-party app developers to access that user data until mid-2020.”

A ‘Political Stunt’

In a response in May, Meta called the FTC’s proposed changes to the 2020 agreement a “political stunt” and argued that the company operates “an industry-leading privacy program.” In addition, Meta argued the agency didn’t have the authority to impose the changes, an argument the company made to Judge Kelly in asking for a preliminary injunction staying the imposition of the changes.

The judge noted that the conditions placed on Meta in 2020 were ordered by the FTC and not the court, nor were part of the Stipulated Order issued by the court. Given that, Kelly said he had no jurisdiction over changes to the conditions created by the FTC. He also said that Meta won’t suffer irreparable harm because of the changes.

A Meta spokesperson told a news outlet that the FTC’s allegations were without merit and that the court’s decision “does not address the substance of the FTC’s allegations.” The spokesperson also noted that by the end of this year, the company will have spent $5 billion since 2019 on a “rigorous privacy program” that embeds privacy in its products.

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