FTC Seeks ‘Blanket’ Ban on Meta’s Use of Young Users’ Data

“The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk,” Samuel Levine, the director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press statement. “Facebook needs to answer for its failures.”

The F.T.C.’s administrative action, called an “order to show cause,” lays out the commission’s accusations against Meta as well its proposed restrictions. The F.T.C.’s proposed changes would bar Meta from profiting from the data it collects from users under the age of 18, including through Facebook, Instagram, Oculus headsets and Horizon Worlds, the company’s new virtual reality platform. Regulators want to ban the company from using that data even after those young users turn 18.

That means Meta could be prohibited from using the details about young people’s activities to show them ads based on their behavior or nudge them to buy digital items, like virtual clothes for their avatars.

The proposed changes could have significant financial repercussions because user data is a key to Meta’s advertising business, which is how it makes the vast majority of its money.

The aggressive action marks the first time that the commission has proposed such a blanket ban on the use of data in order to protect the online privacy of minors. And it arrives amid the most sweeping government drive to insulate young Americans online since the 1990s, when the commercial internet was still in its infancy.

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