Instagram fined $400M in Ireland over children’s data

    Regulators in Ireland have have fined Instagram €405m for violating children’s privacy.

    Ireland’s data privacy regulator says it has agreed to levy a record fine of 405 million euros ($402 million) against social network Instagram following an investigation into its handling of children’s data, a spokesperson for the watchdog said.

    The investigation, which started in 2020, focused on child users between the ages of 13 and 17 who were allowed to operate business accounts, which facilitated the publication of the user’s phone number and/or email address.

    Some children reportedly upgraded to business accounts to access analytics tools such as profile visits, without realising this made more of their data public.

    The DPC regulates large technology companies with European headquarters in the Republic of Ireland.

    “We adopted our final decision last Friday and it does contain a fine of 405 million euro,” said the spokesperson for Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC)

    It has never given such a large fine for a breach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

    However, last year, the DPC fined WhatsApp €225m, while Luxembourg’s data authority fined Amazon a record €746m.

    National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) child-safety-online policy head Andy Burrows said of Instagram’s fine: “This was a major breach that had significant safeguarding implications and 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.

    “It’s now over to the new prime minister to keep the promise to give children the strongest possible protections by delivering the Online Safety Bill in full and without delay.”

    Instagram plans to appeal against the fine, a spokesperson for parent company, Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) said in an emailed statement

    A Meta official said: “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.

    “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.”