User privacy is a big issue these days and online platforms and websites have to take huge steps to protect their users’ data from falling into the wrong hands. On top of protecting against external threats to privacy, these web companies must also ensure that their own practices do not breach the privacy rights of their users. In this regard, Instagram has seemingly been failing as a country in the EU has just handed out a massive €405 million fine to the social network because of how it has been handling teens’ data. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has received a fine of €405 million by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) following a two-year investigation into how the social network has been handling the data of teenage users.
The investigation into Instagram’s data-handling practices has focused on two ways in which the social network is supposed to have been breaching GDPR rules. The Verge reports that these are:
“ Instagram allowing young users, ages 13-17, to set up business accounts on the platform, which made those users’ contact information publicly available. (Users sometimes switch to business accounts because doing so comes with access to more engagement analytics.)  Instagram also allegedly made the accounts of some young users public by default.”
Ireland’s DPC has form for handing out massive fines to Meta and previously fined the company €225 million when it found that WhatsApp was not sufficiently informing EU citizens about how it collected and used their data. This new fine, however, marks the toughest punitive action taken so far, almost doubling the previously recorded largest fine.
The tough action follows years of scrutiny regarding how these social networks are handling the data of their youngest users, particularly in a context and awareness of the potential damage Instagram can do to the mental health of teenage users of the app. The DPC will release full details of the decision next week, but Instagram has already said that it plans to appeal the decision.