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Facial recognition among new restrictions Meta is fighting in U.S. courts

Facial recognition among new restrictions Meta is fighting in U.S. courts
 

Meta is pushing back against a federal court decision allowing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to seek to impose new limits on its facial recognition use and on how much money the platform can make off minors. Reports from Reuters say the U.S. District Court for D.C. on Monday denied a motion filed by Meta for the court to absorb the dispute with the FTC, which is seeking to enact new restrictions and reopen its 2020 enforcement order accusing the company of violating children’s privacy, following a 2019 ruling that led to a $5 billion settlement.

A day later, Meta filed an appeal, making good on its promise “to vigorously fight the FTC’s unlawful attempt unilaterally to rewrite our agreement” and arguing, according to Politico, that its in-house enforcement powers are an unconstitutional power grab and that “the FTC shouldn’t be the prosecutor, judge, and jury in the same case.”

The law would cover the company’s ubiquitous social media networks Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as its virtual reality business. A release from the FTC summarizes the new policy on facial recognition, under which Meta would need to disclose and obtain users’ affirmative consent for any future uses of facial recognition technology. The commission also says it is past time that the Zuckerbergian megalith responds to allegations it misrepresented the control parents had over their children’s use of Messenger Kids, and that promised protections had not stopped minors from talking to users outside their approved group.

While the FTC’s concerns are not limited to dollars, Zuckerberg and the Meta leadership are likely most concerned with the money. More than 98 percent of Meta’s income is from digital ads that are targeted using personal data. Per the FTC release, the proposed blanket prohibition on monetizing data of children and teens under 18 would mean that the company could collect and use such data only to provide the services or for security, and would be prohibited from using it for any kind of commercial gain even after users turn 18.

This may not be much of a concern on the flagship platform, of which only 4.6 percent users are under 18, according to data from Oberlo. (Although it might mean less clunky nostalgia marketing down the road.) For Instagram, the number is not quite double that, at around 8.5 percent. First generation social media platforms are still dominated by the 18-34 demographic.

Regardless, Meta has been accused of making a habit of harvesting children’s personal biometric data, and its products have reached enough kids to spur 33 U.S. states to launch a lawsuit that accuses the company of ravaging the mental health of America’s youth by knowingly inducing children and teenagers into addictive social media use.

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