‘Be cautious;’ Court document claims Meta knowingly collected personal info from kids under 13

Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, could be collecting and storing your children’s personal information.

A newly unsealed court document from an ongoing federal lawsuit against the social media giant alleges Meta knowingly refused to shut down the majority of accounts belonging to children under the age of 13.

Attorneys general from 33 states have accused Meta of receiving more than a million reports of users on Instagram from parents, friends, and online community members between early 2019 and mid-2023. However, “Meta disabled only a fraction of those accounts,” the complaint states.

Phillip Graves, CEO of Antisyn, a local IT and cyber security company, said it’s not shocking that your personal information can be collected online.

“Social media is designed to gather data. That’s its whole purpose. That’s why it doesn’t cost anything because your information is the product,” Graves said.

What is shocking is the allegations that Meta was storing children’s information. Graves said data collected by social media sites can be as little as your contact information or as much as your most important secrets or social security number.

“As a father of a young kid myself, I’m really surprised that the allegations say that they actually knowingly kept the information and even tried to potentially use it,” Graves said.

Graves said there’s not much parents can do to stop this from happening but parents should rightfully be worried that their children’s data is being collected.

“Everything we’re seeing for the Meta lawsuit is, it’s more anonymized. So, it’s less about any one child and more of that information being used maybe against children in general. And so, it’s more of is this the right direction that we want to go as a society?”

The lawsuit accused Meta of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), which prohibits companies from collecting the personal information of children under 13 without a parent’s consent.

One Meta product designer wrote in an internal email that the “young ones are the best ones,” adding that “you want to bring people to your service young and early,” according to the lawsuit.

Graves believes Meta was using the information collected to target young users to keep using social media and suggests parents should help their kids understand the risks of sharing information online.

“The best thing you can do is just be cautious about what apps you’re using, what websites you use, and what you choose to share with them. Because you have to assume that anything you share, they could do something else with.”

Georgia is part of this lawsuit, which is made up of 33 states, accusing the social media giant of intentionally designing addictive features for young people across its platforms.

Florida sued Meta in its own separate federal lawsuit, alleging the company misled users about the potential health risks of its products.

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