Washington (January 29, 2019) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today sent a letter to Facebook demanding information about new evidence that the company knowingly manipulated children into spending their parents’ money without permission while playing games on Facebook. Recent findings uncovered by The Center for Investigative Reporting show that Facebook personnel had direct knowledge that children were spending large sums of their parents’ money on in-app purchases without parental knowledge or permission. Specific design features and default settings fostered this practice. In addition, reports suggest that when Facebook became aware of this phenomenon and identified a solution, the company declined to implement the fix, and even designed a mechanism to automatically dispute its users’ requests for refunds.
“Reporting suggests that your users requested refunds for over 9% of the money Facebook made from children, raising serious questions about whether your company has engaged in deceptive business practices and whether all of those affected have been made whole,” write the Senators in the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Together, these findings point to a problematic culture of putting profits ahead of your users’ financial wellbeing and raise serious concerns regarding the company’s willingness to engage responsibly in its interactions with children.”
A copy of the Senator’s letter can be found HERE.
In the letter, the Senators ask Facebook to respond to questions that include:
In October 2918, Senators Markey and Blumenthal called on the FTC to investigate if Facebook violated COPPA after a study found that apps were accessing children’s sensitive information without providing notice or obtaining the required consent.