The FTC alleges that the company continued to give app developers’ access to users’ private information, after it promised to cut off access in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which revealed the political consultancy improperly gained access to the data of millions of Facebook users.
FTC Chair Lina Khan (D), a prominent tech industry critic, has promised to use the agency’s tools to more strictly monitor whether big companies are adhering to privacy agreements with the agency. Many Democrats criticized the FTC’s historic $5 billion settlement following Cambridge Analytica for not being tough enough. Now with a 3-0 majority at the agency, the party is newly emboldened to pursue tougher penalties.
The announcement comes as policymakers from both parties grow increasingly concerned about the impact of social media on children and teens. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators revived multiple bills aimed at protecting kids and teens online.
Meta spokesman Andy Stone blasted the FTC’s announcement as a “political stunt,” saying that the agency did not give the company an opportunity to discuss an “unprecedented theory.”
“FTC Chair Lina Khan’s insistence on using any new measure — however baseless — to antagonize American business has reached a new low,” Stone wrote. “We will vigorously fight this action and expect to prevail.”
Under the FTC’s new proposal, Meta would only be allowed to collect and use data about users under the age of 18 to provide services or for security purposes. It would not be able to use that data for commercial gain. The company would also be barred from launching new products or services until after they get a written assessment that they’re fully complying with the company’s privacy program. The rules would apply to any company that Meta acquires, including in virtual reality.
The announcement is just the first step in an administrative process to modify the 2020 order. Meta will have 30 days to respond to the agency’s plan.
Naomi Nix contributed to this report.