Meta calls for Federal Privacy Legislation in Wake of Suit Alleging Its Violation of Children’s Privacy Law
Last month we covered the lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of thirty-three states against Meta for claims that its hugely popular social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, violate the federal children’s privacy law, COPPA, as well as state laws pertaining to unfair and deceptive trade practices. Over the last month, portions of the complaint were unsealed providing additional insight into the claims by the attorneys general, and Meta has seemingly responded to portions of the complaint by issuing its own statement on federal legislation to protect children’s privacy.
The unsealed complaint provides details on allegations that despite Meta’s receipt of reports of users under 13 on its platform, it disabled only a small number of these accounts. The outcome being that Meta continued to collect the personal information of these children under 13 without sufficient parental permission. If true, actual knowledge of continued collection of personal information from children under 13 without verifiable parental consent would be a violation of COPPA.
In what appears to be a response to suit, on November 15, Meta issued a statement in support of federal legislation to shift the burden for collection of parental consent to app stores, rather than individual applications. Meta cites the difficultly that platforms face in complying with a patchwork of state laws, as well as the inconvenience and security risk that parents face in providing authorization to numerous apps. The solution Meta posits is that age verification should take place on the app store, with a single point of verification to reduce the provision of verification information to numerous apps. While this would undoubtedly reduce the verification burden, both for these applications and parents, among other, it leaves open the question of how verification is handled for apps that are also website accessible. For example, a Facebook user need not download the Facebook app, but rather, can interact with the platform solely through the web. It is unclear how Meta’s proposal would address web-based verification.
We will continue to monitor this suit for updates.