Instagram slapped with a $402 million fine over its abuse of kids' privacy

Instagram on iPhone
(Image credit: Instagram)

Instagram has been fined €405M, or around $402 million, over its handling of data belonging to kids.

The fine, the second-largest given to a company over GDPR failures, comes via the Irish Data Protection Commission and was first reported by Politico. The fine also becomes the largest ever to be given to a Meta-owned company and was handed down over Instagram's mishandling of children's data including their email addresses and phone numbers.

Meta isn't happy

In a statement given to Politico, Meta said that the Irish inquiry and subsequent fine were based on settings that haven't been a part of the Instagram app for more than a year. “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," a Meta spokesperson told Politico. "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. We engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, and we’re carefully reviewing their final decision.”

The complaint itself relates to how children's information was processed by business accounts on Instagram, with an inquiry finding that some accounts were being set to "public" by default, TechCrunch reports.

What will happen next remains to be seen, but despite the statement this isn't a good look for Instagram or Meta — two companies that continue to come under pressure for their privacy and wellbeing issues, especially related to teens.

However, Instagram is right in saying that it has taken steps to protect kids and their data. It already added more robust time limits that can be controlled by parents, while people can also prevent sensitive content from being pushed into their feeds. Adults can also no longer send DMs to under-18s unless in specific circumstances, too.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.