If inquiries show that Instagram has breached privacy rules, the social media giant could face a massive fine.
The Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland (DPC) is reportedly reviewing Instagram's treatment of children's data on its website. Anyone at least 13 years of age can open an Instagram account, although Irish authorities are testing whether Facebook, as the parent company of Instagram, can lawfully process minors' personal details.
Instagram Faces Investigation in Ireland
An investigation occurred after Instagram made company account contact details available to those using the app, BBC reported.
Officials are still examining whether the social media network uses adequate security and limits on children's Instagram pages. The organization has not yet released its comments on the investigation, however.
"Instagram is a social media platform which is used widely by children in Ireland and across Europe," DPC deputy commissioner Graham Doyle told BBC.
He also noted that the DPC had found potential questions about the Instagram collection of personal information for children that would need further review.
DPC is investing in whether Facebook adheres to GDPR standards over the account and profile settings of Instagram and whether the social media platform has adequate privacy security given that children are sensitive users.
The DPC was nominated as the lead regulator under the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union. It vows to defend the rights of people to online privacy and will charge huge fines.
This means that if the regulator considers that Instagram has actually breached children's privacy rights, Facebook could be asked on behalf of Instagram to pay big penalties.
Company Profiles Display Personal Details on Instagram
In February 2019, data scientist David Stier started testing nearly 200,000 Instagram accounts worldwide. He believed that at least 60 million people under the age of 18 had been given the social media site option to turn their accounts into company profiles for more than a year.
Users are required to publicly share their email addresses and phone numbers to make their details accessible to other people.
However, such personal information has also been used in the HTML source code of numerous websites that are accessed while browsing Instagram on a computer laptop. Unfortunately, cybercriminals could "scrap" the same set of data.
Stier revealed his findings to Facebook in a blog he posted. But Instagram declined to mask the company accounts' phone numbers and email addresses.
"Do we have a responsibility to keep kids' phone numbers and emails hidden so that strangers can't find them just by clicking a button?" Stier wrote in his blog in Medium.com.
Worse, the analyst said that Instagram reported that users' contact information, including minors, was currently displayed on their profile page in the Instagram app , allowing more than 1 billion people to see their data, including their phone number and email address.
Later on, Facebook agreed to erase contact information on the source code of the Instagram accounts. Stier also claims, though, that hackers may already have accessed these personal information from Instagram's website.
As a father, Stier also noted that he needs to be confident that Instagram gives teenagers a social media experience that is "adult-overseen" to ensure that they are safe from cyber criminals.
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