EU investigating Instagram over handling of children’s personal data

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Instagram has become the new sensation among the millennials over the decade. Many youngsters use the social app to post their daily activities to gain followers and influence people further.

However, when it comes to protecting the data of all these users, Instagram might have failed to do that properly. As Instagram is now owned by Facebook, it could face a large fine if any laws are found to be broken here.

According to the reports, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is currently investigating Instagramover its handling of children’s personal data on the platform. It has also come into light that Instagram has failed to protect data including allowing email addresses and phone numbers of those under 18. If the data breaching allegation and its public leakage is proved to be true, Facebook may have to pay a huge sum as fine.

The DPC isis the lead European Union regulator under the EU General Data Protection Regulation since 2018. Itis responsible for protecting individuals’ right to online privacy and if necessary, DPC can also take legal action against any company which may or might leak any personal information from online sites into the public domain.

As per the reports, DPC is looking if Facebook has adhered with GDPR requirements in relation to Instagram’s profile and account settings. Children also come undervulnerable people category, therefore, Facebook must protect their personal data. DPC is currently looking into the case and will see ifFacebook has a legal basis for processing children’s personal data. It will also investigate ifif it employs adequate protections and restrictions on Instagram for children, as the reports say.

Facebook, however, denied the allegations but continued to co-operate with DPC for further investigation.

Instagram and data leakage

Being one of the biggest social media platforms, Instagram is meant to protect its user’s personal information according to the law. It also needs to validate their protections and restrictions as the age limit of opening an Instagram account is only 13. If the data leaking process brings any kind of damage to the children, it can mean serious harm to them at a sensitive age.

Moreover, Users with Instagram business accounts require to publicly display their contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses. These kinds of information are easy to be scraped by the hackers since it is available in the HTML source code of web pages.

In February 2019, data scientist David Stier estimated in a Medium blog post that about 60 million Instagram users under the age of 18 were given the option to switch their personal accounts to business profiles. This means all of their contact information was displayed in plain sight on their profile page in the app and could be viewed by millions of people across the globe.

Graham Doyle, a deputy commissioner with DPC, said in a BBC report:

Instagram is a social media platform which is used widely by children in Ireland and across Europe.The DPC has been actively monitoring complaints received from individuals in this area and has identified potential concerns in relation to the processing of children’s personal data on Instagram which require further examination.

But, Facebook decided to remove the contact information from the source code of Instagram pages later on. A Facebook spokeswoman also claimed the estimation as a case of misunderstanding and said:

We’ve always been clear that when people choose to set up a business account on Instagram, the contact information they shared would be publicly displayed. That’s very different from exposing people’s information. “We’ve also made several updates to business accounts since the time of Mr Stier’s mis-characterization in 2019, and people can now opt-out of including their contact information entirely.

Now, the problem regarding this entire data breaching process has become so sensitive that parents have started to worry. Of course who wouldn’t be? Children are the future of this world and when it comes to their privacy and information, Instagram and Facebook must take proper steps to protect them.

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