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Groups hit Facebook with another FTC complaint

Facebook logo on smartphone screen with shadowy fingers
Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A coalition of groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission Thursday alleging that Facebook violated children's privacy and unfairly pushed them to make purchases in applications hosted on its platform.

Why it matters: The FTC is already investigating the social network’s privacy practices regarding the Cambridge Analytica data leak last year, in light of an earlier settlement it reached with the company.

Details: The organizations, including childhood media advocates Common Sense as well as other advocacy groups, are making two main charges:

  1. That Facebook violated the federal prohibition on “unfair” practice by deceiving kids into making purchases and then making it hard for them to get a refund. "Facebook took advantage of unsuspecting kids, one of whom employees referred to as a 'whale,' using casino parlance to refer to the child’s high volume of purchases,” their complaint says.
  2. That Facebook violated a major child privacy law.

The complaint follows the release of information about the purchases uncovered by Reveal, an investigative reporting outlet, through court documents in a case over the issue settled in 2016.

Yes, but: The FTC may not choose to start an investigation based on the complaint.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the company offers tools to parents and "also has safeguards in place regarding minors' purchases."

  • "In 2016, we updated our terms and now provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on Facebook, including special training for our reviewers," per the statement.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include Facebook's statement.

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