As expected, Meta has filed a new legal action in opposition to the FTC seeking to implement further restrictions on the company’s capacity to utilize user data in ad targeting, specifically relating to teen users.
The case stems back to Meta’s 2019 settlement with the FTC, in which the social platform was fined a record $5 billion for data privacy violations stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw info from more than 50 million Facebook user profiles accessed by the shady analysis company for the purposes of influencing voter actions.
While that specific case was effectively settled, many experts have criticized the lack of new rules and/or restrictions implemented as a result, which has since enabled Meta to violate certain elements of the conditions that had been implied by the original FTC order.
Based on this, the FTC filed a new motion last May to rectify this, by extending the original 2019 settlement to include new provisions to stop Meta from profiting off of data collected from users under the age of 18. The new amendments would also implement restrictions on Meta’s use of facial recognition technology, with both measures primarily focused on new use cases amid Meta’s VR metaverse push.
Meta countered the FTC’s push late last year, claiming that its actions are actually in violation of the U.S. Constitution. But in November, a federal judge ruled that the FTC could move ahead with its proposal.
At that time, Meta flagged its intent to appeal, which it has now done, with a new filing for an injunction pending the next stage.
The case has major implications for the company, especially as it seeks to develop new systems aligned with VR usage, and the customization of user experiences within its new platforms. But at the same time, many would argue that the FTC is right to get ahead of this now, before the metaverse becomes a bigger concern, and like Facebook before it, gets out of control, as Meta potentially prioritizes growth over data privacy, especially for vulnerable users.
Aside from new restrictions on the usage of teen data, the FTC’s also seeking a new restriction that would stop Meta from releasing new products until they've been assessed for privacy, as well as stronger third-party monitoring of data usage.
It does seem prudent for the FTC to take proactive action on this front, though Meta is determined to fight the changes, with the legal battle set to carry on for some time yet.
But much like AI, regulation, in some form, is needed, and it is important for the FTC to push on areas that it feels could lead to future harm, especially around developing technologies.