Instagram has been fined heavily by Irish regulators after an inquiry revealed that the social media site mismanaged personal information of teens in violation of strict European Union data privacy standards.
According to an email from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, the corporation was fined 405 million euros ($402 million) in a final decision last week, though the exact details will not be disclosed until next week.
The fine is the second-largest imposed under the EU’s stringent privacy rules, after Luxembourg’s regulators penalized Amazon 746 million euros last year.
Instagram parent company Meta, which also owns Facebook, stated that while they ‘engaged fully’ with regulators throughout the investigation, they disagree with how the fine was calculated and intend to appeal it.
The Irish watchdog’s investigation focused on how Instagram published personal information about users aged 13 to 17, such as email addresses and phone numbers. Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old.
The study began after a data scientist discovered that individuals, including some under the age of 18, were converting to business accounts and had their contact information posted on their profiles. Users were supposedly doing it to view statistics on how many likes their posts received after Instagram began eliminating the feature from personal accounts in some regions to help with mental health.
Instagram said the investigation focused on ‘old settings’ that were updated more than a year ago, and it has since launched additional privacy options for teens, such as automatically turning their profiles to private when they join.
“We’re continuing to carefully review the rest of the decision,” the company said.
The Irish watchdog is the principal regulator for many US-based tech companies with European headquarters in Dublin under the EU’s data protection legislation.
The watchdog is looking into a number of other Meta-owned enterprises. Last year, it penalized WhatsApp 225 million euros for violating transparency laws about the sharing of people’s data with other Meta firms.