Facebook Gives the FTC an Earful on Privacy

Privacy issues are all the rage lately when it comes to social media use on both a personal and professional level. Yet another issue has reared its head against Facebook.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published a notice to seek public comments on proposed modifications to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (aka the “COPPA” Rule). For the past year or so the FTC has been leaning towards creating rules that further protect children from the online collection, use, or disclosure of their personal information. For full information regarding these changes, you can visit FTC’s webpage here. In short, the changes FTC has discussed would lead to a dramatic shift in how information is allowed to be collected from minors. This in turn could lead to revenue losses for current marketing and advertising platforms that rely on models using this type of information.

Facebook quickly responded with a 22 page Commentary that the new regulations would restrict the ability for minors to “like,” comment on, or recommend websites and services against minors under certain circumstances, thus infringing on minors’ constitutionally protected Free Speech rights. In a recent case, the Supreme Court once again reiterated these rights by stating that, “minors are entitled to a significant measure of First Amendment protection, and only in relatively narrow and well-defined circumstances may government bar public dissemination of protected materials to them.

Now it may seem that Facebook is doing all of this just to take advantage of children so they can hook them in as future users. However, to Facebook’s credit their response was filled with their strong belief in the importance of empowering parents to protect their own children online, reminding the FTC that Facebook has been a leader in promoting safety for minors aged 13-17. Additionally, Facebook reminded the FTC of the original intent of COPPA, which was “to enhance parental involvement in a child’s online activities…to protect the privacy of children” and to “preserve the interactivity of children’s experience on the Internet and…children’s access to information in this rich and valuable medium.” Facebook obviously feels these new regulations could thwart the goals and original intent of COPPA and stop children from fully participating in these valuable mediums.

It will be interesting to see how this will play out with the FTC and the direction they will go, especially in light of a recent legal case where a U.S. District judge found that a “like” is not considered protected speech under the First Amendment for anyone (that will be explored in a future post). What are your thoughts on Facebook’s response to the FTC?

David Mink recently presented on other current legal compliance issues at SMX East NYC (Hot Topics in Social Media and Internet Law). Check out the full presentation here:

3 thoughts on “Facebook Gives the FTC an Earful on Privacy

  1. Lorien says:

    Good post. I think Facebook can still do a lot in terms of privacy, especially for younger users. Hopefully they will listen and make some worthwhile changes soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *