Instagram hit with €405Mn fine over privacy settings for children

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The internet, with all its benefits, has made the maintenance of privacy difficult – in a world where everything is connected and virtual, user data is an extremely precious and sensitive commodity. This is what prompted governments to roll out legislations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

And now, Meta-owned social media platform Instagram has been handed a hefty fine for violating the same. The fine of €405 million ($402 million) was levied by the Irish data privacy regulator – the Data Protection Commission (DPC). Deputy commissioner, Graham Doyle informed that the full details of the decision would published this week, so keep an eye out.

What we do know, is that the fine levied on the Meta-owned platform is the largest one that it has been hit to date over GDPR violations, the third for a Meta-owned company handed down by the Irish regulator and the second-largest fine handed by the GDPR. The dubious honour for the first place goes to e-commerce powerhouse Amazon, which was handed a penalty of €746 million ($276 million).

According to a spokesperson for the privacy regulator, the fine was levied after the commission finalized its decision on Friday, and followed a two-year-old investigation into Instagram’s handling of children’s data and privacy settings on the social networking and photo-sharing site. The regulator has at least six other investigations into Meta-owned companies.

More specifically, the current probe focusses on Instagram’s processing of the data of children and its publication of sensitive information such as the email addresses and phone numbers of the children (aged between 13 to 17) when they used business accounts.

The investigation also covered Instagram’s policy that resulted in the default settings of all new users, including children to be set to “public,” unless the user was privacy-conscious enough to set it to “private.”

“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 spokesperson said. “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. We engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, and we’re carefully reviewing their final decision.”

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