Meta has been fined almost $400 million for violating European Union data privacy rules over its handling of children’s data on Instagram.

It is the latest in a series of actions taken by regulators in Europe and the US to regulate what information companies collect and share about young people online.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said on Friday, September 2 it has chosen to levy one of the biggest fines under the General Data Protection Regulation yet.

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Policymakers are working to improve the protection of children’s data collected by social media, online video games, and other internet services.

Last week, California lawmakers enacted legislation requiring numerous internet services to improve children’s protection and last year, Britain enacted a similar bill.

Children’s data is given extra protection under European law.

In 2020, the Data Protection Commission of Ireland launched a probe on Instagram for making the accounts of children aged 13 to 17 public by default.

The investigation was also for allowing minors with Instagram business profiles, many of whom were aspiring influencers, to make their email addresses and phone numbers public.

GDPR spokesman Graham Doyle confirmed that Instagram was fined 405 million euros, or around $402 million.

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Meta said it disagreed with the verdict and confirmed it was likely to file an appeal, which might result in a protracted legal procedure.

The company claims the investigation focused on outdated settings that were updated more than a year ago.

It also says it has added a number of new measures to ensure the safety of underage users.

Until late 2019, Meta said Instagram displayed business users’ contact details by default, but it is now optional.

The company said: “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.”

The penalty is significantly higher than any other imposed by Ireland against Meta so far and shows authorities’ increased efforts to curb the potentially adverse effects of social media and the internet on young people.

This year, European policymakers adopted new child-related laws.

A new law called the Digital Services Act says companies are barred from using some data to personalize advertising aimed at people under the age of 18.

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Because Meta has its European headquarters in Ireland, the country is responsible for enforcing the company’s compliance with GDPR.

It is a broad regulation introduced in 2018 to regulate how firms gather and share people’s data.

Irish authorities fined Meta 225 million euros last year for violations relating to the messaging app WhatsApp.

The company was fined 17 million euros by the regulators in March for a data breach.

In a separate case, the country has threatened to block Meta from transferring data from European users to the company’s data centers in the US.

Source: The New York Times

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