Meta Launches Kitchen Sink Constitutional Attack on FTC to Evade New Privacy Limits

November 30, 2023

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, launched a far-reaching legal attack on the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to enforce consumer protection laws Wednesday in an attempt to evade proposed restrictions on the company’s collection and use of personal data.

In May, the FTC announced its intent to impose significant new limits on the personal data practices of Meta, including a ban on monetizing the data of minors and constraints on the company’s use of facial recognition technology. The proposed action, which would modify an existing FTC order against Meta resulting from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is based on findings that Meta “failed to fully comply with the order, misled parents about their ability to control with whom their children communicated through its Messenger Kids app, and misrepresented the access it provided some app developers to private user data.”

On Wednesday, Meta filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to preemptively halt the FTC’s proceeding, arguing that the Commission’s structure and enforcement procedures—which are firmly grounded in decades of federal law and agency practice—violate a laundry list of constitutional provisions. Meta is seeking a preliminary injunction staying the FTC’s action based on the company’s novel reading of the Constitution. Earlier this week, a separate legal challenge by Meta to the FTC’s enforcement action was rejected by a federal judge.

“It seems there’s no legal theory, however far-fetched, that Meta won’t deploy to avoid a full accounting of its harmful data practices,” EPIC Director of Litigation John Davisson said in a statement. “The reason is clear. A hearing before the FTC will confirm that Meta continues to mishandle personal data and put the privacy and safety of minors at risk, despite multiple orders not to do so. The changes FTC is proposing to Meta’s exploitative business model can’t come soon enough. We hope the court will reject Meta’s latest attempt to run out the clock, as another federal court did just this week.”

EPIC has long fought to protect the privacy of social media users, particularly users of Facebook and Meta. In 2009, EPIC and coalition partners brought an FTC complaint concerning Facebook’s privacy settings that led to the Commission’s first consent decree with Facebook. EPIC filed numerous FTC complaints targeting Facebook’s abusive data practices in the years after and challenged the inadequacy of the Commission’s 2019 consent decree in federal court. EPIC has also advocated for heightened privacy protections for minors. Recently, EPIC submitted comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to provide recommendations for improving youth mental health, safety and privacy online.

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