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Online Safety: Regulator alleges Facebook violated child privacy order, wants it rewritten

Kids Browsing the Internet

*The United States’ Federal Trade Commission and Facebook, now known as Meta, are squaring off again, as the regulatory boy says, the social media giant’s ‘recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures’

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In regard to a proposal focusing on enhanced protections for children and teens, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Facebook, now known as Meta, are squaring off again.

The regulatory agency claims leading social media platform failed to fully comply with its 2020 privacy order.

ConsumerConnect learnt the United States-based Commission’s order had accused Facebook of misleading parents about their ability to control who their children communicated with through Facebook’s ‘Messenger Kids’ app.

According to FTC, the digital company also misrepresented the access it allowed app developers to private user data.

As a result of those indiscretions, therefore, the FTC wants the original order rewritten to take away any wiggle room Facebook has been using to its advantage, report stated.

The social media giant has now been on the FTC’s wrong side three times for allegedly failing to protect users’ privacy.

The Commission, according to report, first filed a complaint against Facebook 2011 and secured an order 2012 barring the company from misrepresenting its privacy practices.

Samuel Levine, Director of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said: “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.”

What the FTC requires now

If the FTC gets sign-off on the proposed changes, Facebook – and Meta’s other services, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus – would be prohibited from making any money off the back of the data it collects.

This would include its virtual reality products and any user under age 18, report noted.

Besides, the social media company would have to walk the straight and narrow on its use of facial recognition technology.

Facebook would also be required to provide additional user protections, which include:

Blanket prohibition against monetising the data of children under 18.

Plus any data it collects on someone under 18 cannot be used for commercial gain even after those users turn 18.

Pause the launch of new products and services until those products and privacy protections are fully vetted by an assessor, and

Limits on future uses of facial recognition technology.

What can parents can do in the meantime?

The Mozilla Foundation wrote in its review of Messenger for Kids, that the readers of the Mozilla Foundation’s “Privacy: Not Included” series have slapped both Facebook Messenger and Messenger for Kids with a “Super Creepy” label.

“With Facebook-owned apps, we always worry there is a good deal that could go wrong.”

It also stated: “There are no ads served to kids in Facebook Messenger and Facebook claims they don’t use data from the Messenger Kids app for ads in their other apps.

“It does still collect children’s data though, so be wary.

“If you do decide to use Facebook Messenger, it’s probably best to assume nothing you say or do is actually private.”

Commenting on the issue, Yaron Litwin, Chief Marketing Officer at Canopy, a platform designed to keep kids safe online and give parents some peace of mind, told ConsumerAffairs that parents should talk with their children and provide examples of online communication and behavior that could be a concern.

Litwin suggested: “In addition, having clear family rules in place regarding online responsibility and the sharing of personal photos is crucial.”

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