Why EU has imposed a fine of $402 million on Instagram

Privacy regulators of the European Union have imposed another $402 million fine on the Meta-owned photo-sharing platform — Instagram. The regulator brought forward complaints related to how the social media platform handles children’s data and the penalty was imposed for allegedly breaching the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The amount of fine was first disclosed by a Politico report, however, no other details were mentioned in it. According to a report by The Verge, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission’s (DPC) spokesperson, Caolmhe McGuire has said that “full details of the decision will publish next week.”
Why IDC imposed a fine on Instagram
The DPC investigation reportedly started two years ago and focused on two ways in which the company has allegedly breached GDPR rules. Firstly, the regulator accused Instagram allowed young users, aged between 13-17, to set up business accounts on the platform, which made their contact information publicly available. Moreover, sometimes users switch to business accounts to get access to more engagement analytics. Secondly, Instagram was also accused of switching the accounts of some young users to the public by default.

Meanwhile, this is the third and the biggest fine amount DPC has imposed on Meta. Previously, the regulator imposed a fine of $267 million on the social media giant due to WhatsApp’s method of data collection from EU citizens. DPC was not satisfied with the way the Meta-owned instant messaging platform collected data from the EU citizens and especially the way it shared the data back with Meta. EU ordered WhatsApp to change its privacy policy.
Apart from this, the EU also imposed a relatively smaller fine of about $18.6 million for record-keeping issues regarding security breaches. DPC is also investigating several other big tech companies and some of them involve Meta’s data collection practices.
How Meta has reacted to the fine
The company updated the public-by-default setting more than a year ago and “anyone under 18 automatically has their account set to private when they join Instagram,” Meta said in a statement to Politico. The social media giant has also explained Instagram chooses this setting for teen users so that “only people they know can see what they post, and adults can’t message teens who don’t follow them.”

Another Associated Press report claims that Meta has disagreed with how this fine was calculated and the company intends to appeal the order. Meta (especially Instagram) and its way of handling the online experience of the young users has been under a lot of scrutiny and criticism in the last few years. Frances Haugen’s testimony about Instagram’s effect on mental health also had a vital part in bringing the company under scanners.
Meanwhile, Instagram has also constantly tried to add more products for the young users, which has also been met with huge backlash. Last year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri also argued in favour of the company’s work by saying, “I have to believe parents would prefer the option for their children to use an age-appropriate version of Instagram — that gives them oversight — than the alternative.” Moreover, he has also promised to work with the regulators to make that happen, and Meta said that the company also has cooperated with the DPC’s recent investigation.

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