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Letter from 44 Attorneys General urges Facebook to abandon Instagram for kids

McKenzie Elyse

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Facebook has recently come under fire for its reported development of an Instagram platform geared towards children under 13. First reported in March by Buzzfeed news, internal communications at Instagram revealed that the project is an “H1 priority” for the company. Instagram in its current state bans the use of its platform by anyone under the age of 13 in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or COPPA), however messages from company leaders indicate that they intend to create a digital landscape “that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”

The rules outlined under COPPA are particularly stringent about user data collection, which is the primary reason that most social sites do not allow children to create a profile on their platforms. Despite overall compliance, there is still room for error. Google recently agreed to pay a $170 million settlement following an investigation which revealed that the streaming service Youtube was collecting data from children’s content, a stark violation of COPPA. It is the largest fine collected under COPPA to date.


The National Association of Attorneys General wrote a letter to Facebook on Monday urging it to abandon the project. It bears 44 signatures from state-level attorneys general, including those from non-states such as Guam and Puerto Rico, representing a majority of U.S. territories.

“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the letter reads. 

While the letter has no real legal power, it does serve as a warning to Facebook that continuing to pursue Instagram for kids will pose significant legal risks. State attorneys general have been particularly active in enforcing the rules outlined by COPPA, and the letter indicates that they will be watching Facebook and Instagram very closely for violations.

Despite the implicit threat, Facebook has said that it plans to move forward with the project.

“We’ve just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids,” said Facebook policy representative Andy Stone. “We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general. In addition, we commit today to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”


I'm a copywriter, journalist, and web content creator with a strong passion for my work. Crafting narratives of the world around me brings me an incredible sense of joy — there's nothing I would rather be doing. Besides writing, I enjoy cooking, mixology, music, and my weird cat named Marceline.

Business

SEC Arrives at Settlement with First American Financial Two Years After Breach of Data

Tara Ragone

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pressed charges against First American Financial, a real estate company, for failing to abide by disclosure requirements and procedures. The acts of non-compliance came after personal identifying customer information was breached in 2019, including social security numbers and financial data. First American was found to be liable for having immense vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity management, rendering them in violation of Rule 13a-15(a) of the Exchange Act

Shockingly, First American’s information security team discovered said vulnerabilities months in advance of senior management’s response to the incident, but they did not comply with company policies by advising their superiors about it. First American initially learned of the mishap, which consisted of at least 800 million images being revealed unintentionally, when a cybersecurity journalist contacted them with the unfortunate news. Despite First American rapidly issuing a statement once leadership learned of the incident, they were penalized for the overall poor structure of compliance regarding security of their electronic data.


The severity of this incident was emphasized through statements reiterating that all of the confidential information accidentally leaked was within reach of anyone who had access to the internet. Furthermore, the company’s reputation took another huge blow when they were confronted with accusations of failing to implement a sufficient cybersecurity system by the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Cybersecurity Regulation in July of 2020.

Although First American did not outright admit to any wrongdoing, they accepted a cease and desist order and settled their mistakes by paying a $487,616 fine. First American expressed gratitude for the resolution that was reached, and they asserted that complying with disclosure mandates set forth by the SEC will continue to be a priority for them. The penalty imposed on First American for their faults is sure to set an example for their industry, especially considering they hold 21.07% of the market share and are one of four top mortgage title companies.

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Business

Hackers Breach McDonald’s Data Internationally

Tara Ragone

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McDonald’s is the newest high profile business fractured by a widespread data breach. This time hackers stole private information originating in the US, South Korea, and Taiwan, but operations were not at all stalled by the incident. It is said that no financial information was touched in the US, but that the actors were able to access customer specific information in South Korea and Taiwan. Similar to findings in the recent EA hack, McDonald’s asserts this was not a ransomware attack, but rather consisted of store related data being stolen. 

When McDonald’s noticed their internal security system was experiencing an unauthorized action, they called on specialists to investigate. Upon realization of what was going on, the attempts by hackers to commit theft were put to an end pretty quickly. Some of the exact content that was accessed includes employee and franchise contact information, seating capacities, and the measurement of square footage in play areas. 


McDonald’s employees were advised shortly after the breach to remain vigilant of potential phishing emails and to be cautious about revealing information when it is requested. As for the countries where customer data was reached, regulators were consulted on the matter and they plan to notify all affected customers and even employees. South Africa and Russia are additional countries that investigators discovered to be possible targets as well, so they received a courteous warning about it. 

Expansive companies, whether critical infrastructure or just in existence for their popular products, are being repeatedly targeted by cyber criminals. McDonald’s is another example as to why all businesses need to have productive cybersecurity safeguards in place before they are taken aback by a cyber crime. McDonald’s did, however, claim to have been able to respond so quickly due to the security measures they already had incorporated into their operative procedures over the course of several years.

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Business

The FTC Says MoviePass Tried to Prevent Users From Actually Seeing Movies

Brandon Marcus

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The disgraced movie ticket subscription service MoviePass is looking worse than it already did thanks to the FTC. That’s because a new complaint from the Federal Trade Commission states that the now-shuttered business did practically everything in its power to actually prevent users from doing the very thing it promoted and promised: seeing movies for an impossibly low cost.

The complaint, released Monday, states that MoviePass invalidated about 75,000 user passwords and then falsely claimed it detected fraud in those accounts. This action locked the users out of their accounts because the password resetting process often failed. Furthermore, it would often take weeks to get a response or email from the company. 


Additionally, the FTC claims that MoviePass created a faulty “ticket verification program” that didn’t work like it should have and then blocked thousands of others users from using the service. Worst of all, the business created hidden “trip wires” in the system that would block those who saw more than three movies a month from using MoviePass. 

All of these deceptive actions occurred at a time when the business was hemorrhaging money and was quickly sinking like a stone after promising subscribers they could see an unlimited amount of films in theaters for just $9.95 a month. The company, which started in 2011 with much fanfare and excitement from movie fans, quickly devolved into a virtual quagmire after millions of users complained about limited access, rising fees, and functionality issues.

The revelations leveled by the FTC come as part of a settlement between the agency and MoviePass’s parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics. The terms of the settlement state that any future businesses controlled by MoviePass executives Mitchell Lowe and Theodore Farnsworth must use information security programs. 

Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s acting director of Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement that “MoviePass and its executives went to great lengths to deny consumers access to the service they paid for.”

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