Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Instagram may face huge fine after millions of children’s contact details leaked

2 min read

Facebook could face a multi-billion dollar privacy fine amid claims up to five million children's phone numbers and email addresses were exposed on Instagram via a loophole.

The Telegraph revealed Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner's (DPC) launched two investigations last month over fears under-18s were put at risk from groomers and hackers.

The Facebook-owned app allows users to change their personal Instagram accounts to ones designed for businesses, which give statistics on how popular their posts and photos are.

Problems emerged as until recently switching to one meant their contact details became visible to the public.

There were no checks to see if the accounts were actually running a business and although Instagram has a minimum age of 13, more than one in five children between eight and 12 in the UK use it, according to Ofcom.

David Stier, a US data scientist who first discovered the loophole, estimated that as many as five million children had personal details exposed in this way – and his complaints have now sparked the investigations.

Graham Doyle, a deputy commissioner at the DPC, said: “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.”

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Mr Stier told The Telegraph that “Instagram had enormous resources at their disposal, but this incident shows they had woefully low levels of empathy, safety awareness and care for their users”.

Instagram has since changed business accounts so that users have to opt in to revealing their contact details.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “We’re in close contact with the IDPC and we’re cooperating with their inquiries.”

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