The US regulator has accused Meta of endangering child users

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has accused Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, of failing to implement adequate parental controls and suggested that Meta be prohibited from monetizing children’s data.

“The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures,” it said.

Meta has responded by accusing the regulator of overstepping its authority and calling its actions a “political stunt.”

The Federal Trade Commission has claimed that an independent investigation found several gaps in Meta’s privacy program that posed a significant risk to the public. For example, children under 13 were found to be able to chat with contacts not approved by their parents.

Additionally, third-party apps were granted access to private information even after Meta had promised to cut off access if users failed to use the apps in the previous 90 days.

The FTC has recommended several measures, such as:

  • Prohibiting Meta from making money from the data of children and teenagers under the age of 18.
  • Suspending the launch of new products until they are in complete compliance with privacy regulations.
  • Imposing restrictions on the future use of facial recognition technology. Meta would need to disclose and obtain users’ explicit consent for any future uses of this technology.

In response, Meta’s spokesperson, Andy Stone, said the move was a “political stunt”.

He said Meta was being singled out “while allowing Chinese companies, like TikTok, to operate without constraint on American soil”.

Additionally, he alleged that Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was causing conflict with American businesses.

The FTC initiated the case in 2018, following the disclosure of Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of the personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users.

The regulator aims to restrict some of the authority of Big Tech. Nevertheless, firms like Meta claim they are being unjustly targeted.

“Despite three years of continual engagement with the FTC around our agreement, they provided no opportunity to discuss this new, totally unprecedented theory,” Mr Stone said.

The FTC, however, believes that Meta “has repeatedly violated its privacy promises” and wants tougher action to protect younger users.

In statement, which mirrored Mr Stone’s remarks, Meta said it had spent “vast resources building and implementing an industry-leading privacy program”.

“We will vigorously fight this action and expect to prevail”, it wrote.