The Daily Telegraph

Instagram fined £349m for violating children’s privacy

- By Gareth Corfield

INSTAGRAM has been fined €405million (£349million) for publicly sharing the emails and phone numbers of children who used the photo-sharing app.

Ireland’s data watchdog imposed the fine on the California­n tech business for violating EU data laws governing online privacy. It’s the second-largest fine ever levied for breaches of the rules.

Until last summer, Instagram’s services automatica­lly made the email addresses and phone numbers of under-18s who operated business and “creator” accounts public, meaning adults could contact them directly.

The number of affected children was not revealed but is thought to be in the millions given the Eu-wide nature of the breach. The penalty is the largest fine imposed on Instagram for breaking the EU’S General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the second-largest penalty handed out under EU data laws. Only a €746 million fine issued to Amazon last year was bigger.

A spokesman for Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) confirmed the fine and said full details of the decision would be published next week.

The penalty was first reported by the Politico website, which said the DPC has “at least six other investigat­ions” open into companies owned by Meta, Instagram’s parent company.

An Instagram spokesman said the penalty was imposed over “old settings that we updated over a year ago”, adding: “We engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, and we’re carefully reviewing their final decision.”

The photo-sharing app changed the default privacy settings for children’s accounts in July last year after the DPC opened its investigat­ion in 2020.

“Anyone under 18 automatica­lly has their account set to private when they join Instagram,” the Instagram spokesman said.

Baroness Beeban Kidron, who campaigns for tougher regulation of big tech companies, said: “This is an important decision by Helen Dixon, the Irish Data Protection Commission­er. Tech companies should be held accountabl­e for the impact they have on their users – especially those who are more vulnerable, and children most of all.”

Ireland is Meta’s EU headquarte­rs, meaning Irish authoritie­s are responsibl­e for enforcing EU laws governing its local operations.

Separately, Instagram deleted the account of Pornhub over the weekend. Meta did not comment on the decision, which deprived Pornhub of its 13 million followers on the site.

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