PIRG’s comment on the proposed Meta minors’ data ban
The world is accelerating - the profound shockwaves a single new technology can create in the market have never been greater. It’s imperative that regulators step up and meet the moment.
PIRG delivered the following testimony at the FTC’s public meeting.
My name is R.J. Cross with PIRG – the Public Interest Research Group on behalf of our 1 million American members. I want to talk about the FTC’s proposed Meta decision.
Regulators have long let the American people basically serve as the guinea pigs of companies. Products in the marketplace are largely released before real thinking about what might happen next.
With social media, it’s our young people that have borne the brunt. Leaked reports of Facebook’s internal research on its app Instagram concluded it was making body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls. In Britain, 13% of teen girls struggling with mental health drew a direct line between Instagram and a desire to kill themselves. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But I hope you see this:
What we have today is not the advertising industry of the 70s. It is with far more advanced technology, it is more personal, and the threats coming down the pike are even more significant. If the more comprehensive AI models hitting the market today are deployed in the name of advertising, even more granular data about us may be gathered, analyzed rapidly, and used to deliver the content and messages that touches us more deeply. I don’t want to see what a relatively unregulated future could mean for anyone struggling with a part of themselves that tech can amplify in order to make money.
And it’s not just advertising we must consider. Take for example the pivot to VR. In a single second of using VR goggles, companies can gather 90 data points on our body language – information that can be deeply revealing about our health
Consider a 16 year old playing a game with friends for 30 minutes. In that half an hour, an entire database of his movements may be gathered, analyzed with AI modeling, and find that he exhibits the physical traits of someone who 60 years later may develop dementia. This data is sold to hundreds of companies, including insurance agencies, and when he goes to get to his own health care or life insurance policy years down the line, that 30 minutes may end up shaping his financial future. Asking him to predict the implications of 30 minutes of fun is not a fair practice.
The world is accelerating – the profound shockwaves a single new technology can create in the market have never been greater. It’s imperative that regulators step up and meet the moment. It’s time regulators look ahead on behalf of the consumers they are charged to protect.
When it comes to the proposed action against Meta, we see hope that regulators are finally confronting the threats.
The stakes are much higher, and it falls on the FTC to be part of the solution. Thanks for your action, and for the opportunity for concerned consumers to speak.