Meta-owned Instagram has been hit with a $402 million fine by Irish regulators who found the platform had mishandled information belonging to teenagers in violation of EU data privacy rules.
News of the fine came from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission who said that it made a final decision last week to impose a fine on the company 405 million euros ($402 million).
Full details relating to the breach and the fine will be available next week, the Commission said.
The penalty will be the second-biggest issued under the EU’s stringent privacy rules and follows a 746 million euro fine by the Luxembourg’s regulators last year.
Instagram and Facebook owner Meta said that whilst it had co-operated with the regulators it was disappointed in the fine and would appeal it.
AN AP report said that the regulators’ investigation began after a data scientist found that users, including teens, were switching to business accounts and had their contact information displayed on their profiles in order to monitor statistics on their accounts and to see what number of likes their posts were receiving after Instagram started removing the feature from personal accounts in some countries to help with mental health.
Meta said that the setting were old and had been discontinued on the platform.
The Irish watchdog is the lead regulator in relation to extensive EU data privacy rules and has oversight for many U.S. tech companies with European headquarters in Dublin.
It has Meta in its sights for additional issuers too. Last year, it fined WhatsApp 225 million euros for breaching rules on transparency about sharing people’s data with other Meta companies.
Meta faces challenges on multiple fronts, including recent poor earnings reports that triggered a collapse in share price.
Ben Zhao, a professor of computer science at the University of Chicago, agrees that Facebook’s biggest challenge is the tension between the data-based economy the company has pioneered and privacy.
“For a long time we were sort of taking for granted that it was just a given that [companies like Facebook] were going to be able to harvest data and people were going to let them do it and not push back,” said Zhao. “To Zuckerberg’s credit, this is how he made he made this hugely successful company and made it extremely profitable.”
Facebook reported its first decline in users, which is a problem with the business model based on perpetual expansion.