What just happened? The European authority for digital rights will fine Instagram more than $400 million, punishing the social network for how it managed children’s data up until last year. Meta will appeal, but other bad news could come from Ireland in the upcoming months.
Instagram will receive a significant fine by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the Irish independent national authority responsible for upholding privacy and other fundamental digital rights in the European Union as stated by the GDPR regulation. Meta’s social network has to pay more than $400 million for how the company managed children’s data up until last summer.
As of writing, the news & media section of the DPC site had not been updated yet, but the EU privacy regulator has confirmed the decision: the huge fine — one of the largest ever imposed by the Irish authority — comes after a lengthy investigation which started in 2020, regarding how the social network managed data of its youngest users between the ages of 13 and 17.
According to DPC investigators, Instagram allowed child users to operate “business” or creator accounts, facilitating publication and sharing of phone numbers and email addresses with adults and strangers. Millions of European children could be involved, even though the DPC hasn’t offered concrete figures apart from the €405 million fine. According to a DPC spokesman, full details about the decision should arrive next week.
Automatic data sharing for children accounts is an issue that Meta tackled about a year ago: according to Instagram’s parent company, the inquiry by the DPC focuses on an old setting which doesn’t take into account the improvements introduced only recently. “Anyone under 18 automatically has their account set to private when they join Instagram,” a Meta spokesman said, “so only people they know can see what they post, and adults can’t message teens who don’t follow them.”
Instagram says that the social network is now safer for teens and their data, while the company plans to appeal the decision. At €405 million, the fine represents the second largest ever issued by the authority, and it could be just the beginning of a series of bad news for Meta: the Irish regulator has six other investigations in the works, and each one of those could lead to another remarkable monetary punishment for Mark Zuckerberg’s scandal-plagued company.