Irish Data Protection Commission fines Instagram 405 million euros for misuse of teenagers personal information

September 6, 2022 |

The Irish Data Protection Commission has reportedly fined Instagram 405 million euros for misusing personal information.  The mishandling involves publiclly displaying their phone numbers and emails addresses and permitting them to create business accounts.

This represents the second biggest fine by an EU regulator.

The story is covered by the Australian which provides:

Social media platform Instagram has been slapped with a record 405 million euro ($592m) fine by Ireland’s data privacy regulator for mishandling children’s data, publicly displaying their phone number and email addresses.

A 2020 investigation by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission found that children between the ages of 13 and 17 were allowed to create and operate business accounts on the Instagram platform, which published the children’s phone numbers and in some cases email addresses.

The teenage users were reportedly creating the business accounts to view statistics about how many ‘likes’ their posts were getting, after Instagram removed the feature in some countries to help users’ mental health.

The penalty is the second-highest issued under EU’s privacy rules, after an $US1bn fine handed to tech giant Amazon by Luxembourg regulators last year. The Irish regulator also fined WhatsApp – also owned by Meta – 225 million euros for sharing user data with other Meta companies last year.

The regulator said in a statement that it will release more details about the record fine next week. It’s unclear if Australian teenage users were among those affected.

A Meta spokesman said the company will appeal the decision.

“This inquiry focused on old settings that we updated over a year ago, and we’ve since released many new features to help keep teens safe and their information private,” a Meta spokesman told The Australian.

“Anyone under 18 automatically has their account set to private when they join Instagram, so only people they know can see what they post, and adults can’t message teens who don’t follow them.

“While we’ve engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, we disagree with how this fine was calculated and intend to appeal it. We’re continuing to carefully review the rest of the decision.”

Andy Burrows, executive for UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said the issue had the potential to cause real harm to children using Instagram.

“The ruling demonstrates how effective enforcement can protect children on social media and underlines how regulation is already making children safer online,” he said in a statement.

Meta announced an ‘Instagram Kids’ platform in May 2021, designed for tween users between the ages of 10 and 12, but later that year announced it had cancelled the project. Currently, children must provide their age while signing up for an account, and must be over the age of 13.

It comes after The Wall Street Journal revealed last year that researchers from Instagram parent company Meta found that the platform is toxic for teenage girls, especially when it comes to mental health and body image.

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