Instagram accused of leaking private info of MILLIONS of children – and could face EU mega-fine

INSTAGRAM has been accused of leaking the private info of millions of minors.

If the Facebook-owned firm is found to have broken EU law, it could be fined billions of dollars.

As many as five million email address and phone numbers belonging to children may have been leaked by the website.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner is now investigating the alleged privacy bungle.

In a bid to get a deeper insight into how their posts are doing, users often switch to business accounts to take advantage of Instagram's analytics tools.

This provides you with detailed figures on each of your posts, allowing you to see who's seeing your posts and at what time, as well as how many views and likes you get.

But the workaround comes with a catch. In order to run a business profile, users previously had to make their email address or phone number available to the public.

Alex Meron-McCann, of cyber security firm McAfee, has warned that this could have dire consequences for teens.

"As these details are public on business accounts, children using Instagram in this way can be contacted by anyone, including sexual predators," she told Yahoo.

Millions of teenagers are switching their profiles to business accounts, according to independent data scientist David Stier.

Their choice – aided by Instagram's design and prompts – can mean people trade in their privacy and that of their friends for likes, he said.

“I’ll talk to parents and say, ‘Did you know that if your 13-year-old turns their Instagram account into a business account, more than 1 billion people have access to their contact information?’” Stier told Bloomberg.

"Every parent I talk to is like, ‘Are you kidding?’"

Ms Meron-McCann said although business pages offer insight for like-hungry teens, they should be left to those who are actually promoting their company.

She called on Instagram to better police business account registrations.

"Children are vulnerable to approaches that might falsely promise opportunities and encourage them to share sensitive information or images," Ms Meron-McCann said.

Although Instagram has a minimum age of 13, younger children do find their way onto the app.

And some of these youngsters will have created business accounts, without being verified as company owners by Instagram.

This data was previously stored in Instagram's source code, so hackers could have scraped personal data of children in bulk.

"The DPC has been actively monitoring complaints received from individuals in this area," said Graham Doyle, a deputy commissioner at Ireland's DPC.

"And [we have] identified potential concerns in relation to the processing of children's personal data on Instagram which require further examination."

Instagram's business accounts now have an opt-in setting for revealing contact info.

"We’re in close contact with the IDPC and we’re cooperating with their inquiries," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

In other news, Facebook has been branded a “danger to public health” as a shock report reveals staggering failure to crack down on fake news.

Facebook’s messenger has started to merge with Instagram chat.

And, Instagram was caught keeping deleted photos and messages on its systems for more than a year after deletion.

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