Ireland is investigating Facebook following allegations that minors could have their phone numbers and email addresses easily exposed on the company’s subsidiary, Instagram.
The country’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) said it will check whether Mark Zuckerberg’s company has “a legal basis for the ongoing processing of children’s personal data” and if it employs “adequate protections” of such data. At the same time, the regulator plans to inspect the “appropriateness” of Instagram’s account settings for children.
The Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday that the probes were launched in response to claims that Instagram was putting children at risk of grooming or hacking by revealing their contact details. People have to be at least 13 years old to set up an account on Instagram if it is not run by a parent or manager.
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Last year, US-based data scientist David Stier analyzed around 200,000 Instagram accounts in multiple countries. He said that children could easily switch their personal profile to business accounts, which had settings that exposed their phone numbers and email addresses to the public. According to reports, this option could be chosen because, unlike personal profiles, it provided statistics such as how popular their photos and videos were.
Facebook said that it has since updated its business accounts so “people can now opt out of including their contact information entirely.”
The company told the media that it is in “close contact” with the DPC and is cooperating with the probes.
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