Instagram gets into serious trouble selling phone numbers and emails from underage children

Despite frequent warnings about its poor security practices, Facebook continues to accumulate complaints from its users and the authorities responsible for regulating these activities. The latest scandal comes from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), from where they report that Instagram may be leaking sensitive information from minors.

These allegations took on strength after David Stier, a U.S. data scientist, published research stating that the platform had not implemented any mechanism to prevent data from children under the age of 18 from being accessible to third parties. Stier mentions that the platform arbitrarily changed the configuration of multiple infant-operated accounts, turning them into trading accounts. It should be remembered that Instagram business accounts should make their contact details visible on the profile, which could have exposed millions of children and teens.

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Facebook has already spoken out, considering that the researcher has taken this incident out of context because it is always users who choose the type of settings of their accounts, even an option has been added for users of trading accounts to decide whether they want to show their contact details or prefer to hide this information.

Although the regulatory authority has made no mention of Stier’s findings, two new investigations were confirmed into how Instagram processes confidential data of minors: “The DPC has been monitoring complaints related to this topic, which will require careful analysis of Instagram,” a statement from the authority says.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) includes specific provisions related to the processing of information of minors, which states that only those over the age of 13 can consent to their data being processed by an online platform.

Non-compliance with GDPR rules may result in penalties of up to 4% of the offending company’s annual worldwide turnover; in the case of Facebook, it means that any fine for violating regulation could represent billions of dollar losses for the world’s largest social media platform.