RegSol Blog

Children’s Data: Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Launches Inquiry into Facebook/Instagram

November 2020

On the 19th of October, the Data Protection Commissioner issued a press release to announce that it will assess Facebook’s/Instagram’s reliance on certain legal bases to process children’s personal data on Instagram. It will also look at whether adequate protections and restrictions on this platform are appropriate or adequate for children. Account settings and profiles will be examined with respect to Facebook’s responsibility to protect the data protection rights of children as vulnerable persons.

In Ireland, children below the age of 16 (the age of digital consent) cannot give consent to online service providers to process their personal data. If consent to process personal data is requested by the online service provider for the child to access the service, parental consent must be given. Reasonable efforts must be made by the service provider to verify that consent is given by the holder of parental responsibility. Another challenge here is that across the EU there are varying ages of consent, in Spain it is 13, in Austria it is 14. The European Data Protection Board has asked organisations to refrain from creating individual profiles of children and tracking their personal data for marketing and legitimate interests. Guidelines also advise that data processing information addressed to a child should be clear and in plain language.

Facebook/Instagram could face a large fine if found to have broken privacy laws. According to the BBC, Facebook/Instagram what prompted this latest inquiry is that Instagram published email addresses and phone numbers of children under the age when their accounts were switched to a business account.

With a total of 10 inquiries opened in relation to Facebook’s/instagram’s approach to data protection, including glitches where passwords for hundreds of millions of users were stored in readable format on its internal servers last year, we await to see where all these inquiries go.

Click HERE to read more by the DPC

By Judy de Castro