Skip to main content

Instagram whacked with massive fine over child privacy

Instagram has been fined 405 million euros (about $403 million) for violating the European Union’s privacy-focused General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The penalty was handed down by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) over Instagram’s handling of children’s privacy settings on the app.

The size of the fine, which is expected to be officially announced in the coming days, was leaked to news site Politico and confirmed later to TechCrunch.

The DPC’s investigation looked at Instagram’s processing of children’s data, which in some cases made information such as email addresses and phone numbers visible. It also looked into how some children’s accounts were set to public by default, instead of private.

Responding to news of the fine, a spokesperson for Meta told Politico: “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.”

The spokesperson added that anyone under the age of 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.” We should know next week if Meta plans to appeal the fine.

Instagram has long faced criticism over the way it handles matters of privacy for its younger users, but even controlling precisely who uses the app is a big challenge. To set up an account, you have to be at least 13 years old, but it took Instagram until 2019 — nine years after it launched — to start asking users to confirm their age when setting up an account. And even then, children can simply lie about their birth date to continue the setup process.

In recent years, as Meta’s spokesperson mentioned, Instagram has made more effort to introduce measures to protect children’s privacy, as well as other features aimed at making the app safer for younger users.

Politico notes in its report that the fine is the second-biggest financial penalty to be handed down since the privacy-focused GDPR came into force in 2018 after Amazon was fined 746 million euros (about $742 million) in 2021.

It’s also the third fine that the Irish regulator has handed to a company owned by Meta, with the others involving a 225 million euros ($223M) penalty for WhatsApp and a 17 million euros ($16.9M) penalty for Facebook. The Irish DPC is also continuing to work on six other investigations into Meta-owned companies, so more fines could be coming down the track for the U.S. giant.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
The OG App, an ad-free Instagram client, is no longer on the App Store
the og app instagram alternative ad free ios

If you've been having trouble logging in to The OG App, deleting it, and trying to redownload it from the App Store — only to see it's nowhere to be found — you're not alone. The ad-free alternative to Instagram has been pulled from the App Store.

The OG App was created to bring users an old version of Instagram that didn't have in-app ads, recommendations, or Reels. But on Wednesday, Un1feed, the startup behind the app, tweeted that it was removed from the App Store despite its growing popularity. It pointed out that it was downloaded 10,000 times, reached number 50 in the App Store rankings, and received an average rating of 4.1 stars.

Read more
Can’t stand using Instagram in 2022? This app fixes everything you hate about it
The OG App running on an iPhone.

It's no secret that many users are irritated with the steady barrage of new types of content that Meta keeps forcing onto Instagram. The app's complete pivot to Tiktok-like video Reels, the near-constant suggested posts, and the ever-present ads have turned a lot of people off from an app that used to be about simply sharing photos with friends.

In response to what Instagram has become, The OG App was created as a back-to-basics version of Instagram that cuts out a lot of the bloat that's been crammed in.

Read more
Instagram is building a ‘nudity protection’ tool for your DMs
Instagram app on the Google Play Store on an Android smartphone.

Instagram's latest push to give users more control over what they see in the popular photo and video sharing app, may also include what users see in their DMs as well.

On Wednesday, The Verge reported that Instagram was working on a new (optional) tool that would hide unwanted nude photos sent to users via DMs. The still-in-development feature was spotted by Alessandro Paluzzi, who posted a screenshot of the tool on Twitter.

Read more