Irish regulator fines Meta $400M for breaking data protection laws

Bangkok, Thailand – October 29, 2021: Meta logo is shown on a device screen. Meta is the new corporate name of Facebook. Social media platform will change to Meta to emphasize its metaverse vision.

An Irish regulator has fined Meta, the parent company of Instagram, about $400 million because the social media platform broke data protection laws, specifically pertaining to children’s privacy on the app.

The Irish Data Protection Commission “adopted our final decision last Friday and it does contain a fine of €405 million,” Graham Doyle, a deputy commissioner there, confirmed to The Hill, a sum that equates to just over $400 million. 

He added that “full details of the decision will publish next week.”

Politico was the first to report the news.

The Data Protection Commission didn’t offer further details regarding the nature of the fine, but it was related to Meta violating the General Data Protection Regulation and how the data of children on the app is handled.

The Irish regulator launched an investigation into the app two years ago over phone numbers and email addresses that were available to the public from teenagers who had business accounts on the platform and for having the public-by-default accounts for children between the ages of 13 and 17. 

The development comes as Meta and other social media networks are under increasing scrutiny, especially following an explosive investigation published by The Wall Street Journal last year. The Journal published information obtained by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen that detailed the extent to which Facebook knew that Instagram was unhealthy for teens.

“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 regarding the Irish regulator’s fine. 

“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 Meta spokesperson continued. “While we’ve engaged fully with the DPC throughout their inquiry, we disagree with how this fine was calculated and intend to appeal it. We’re continuing to carefully review the rest of the decision.”

This story was updated at 5:56 p.m.

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