Meta has initiated a legal case with the Federal Trade Commission by filing a lawsuit that questions the regulator's authority to enforce proposed privacy oversight reforms. In particular, Meta's lawsuit alleges that the FTC's structural characteristics infringe upon the US Constitution. The legal action, submitted to a federal court in Washington, DC, does not dispute the substance of the FTC's accusations against Meta but focuses on the constitutionality of the FTC's proceedings.
Dispute over Data and Privacy
At the center of the dispute, the FTC seeks to impose strict limitations on Meta's handling of personal data, particularly that of children and teens. Furthermore, the agency intends to enforce new privacy assessment requirements prior to the launch of new products, extend compliance duties to entities that Meta may acquire in the future, curtail the use of facial recognition technology, and implement more rigorous third-party data usage monitoring. Meta asserts that these changes would not only infringe upon its intellectual property rights but also cause significant and irreparable harm to its business operations.
The FTC's accusations hinge on Meta's alleged recurring breaches of privacy obligations and misleading actions related to developer access to user data. The watchdog also criticizes Meta's controls in its Messenger Kids app, suggesting that the company has provided false information to parents regarding the safeguards it offers. Meta's position is that if these proposed FTC adaptations are enforced, it would unjustifiably strip the company of its right to manage its own intellectual property.
Meta is already facing legal action from 41 states for exploiting young users with addictive features on its platforms. The states' attorneys general say that Meta knew about the harm its platforms could cause to young people's mental health, but still designed features that kept them hooked for long periods. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in California, is based on extensive investigations into Meta's practices and their impact on youth mental health.
Supreme Court as Ultimate Arbiter
he constitutional concerns raised by Meta have resonances with prior Supreme Court cases, notably Humphrey's Executor v. United States and Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The latter case determined that strict limits on the President's authority to remove certain appointed officers were unconstitutional. Experts, such as David Vladeck, Professor of Law at Georgetown University, believe that this aspect of Meta's challenge could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
Meta's argument also considers the intertwining roles the FTC plays as both prosecutor and judge, which it claims contravenes the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. Moreover, the company advocates for the adjudication of disputes in jury trials as opposed to FTC administrative proceedings. The implications of this legal dispute extend beyond Meta and could potentially reshape the judicial procedures that regulatory agencies must follow to enforce compliance, requiring them to rely on federal court processes.