The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has released details of its decision to impose a record fine of €405m on social media platform Instagram.

It is the largest fine ever imposed by the DPC and once it has been paid, the money will go to the Irish exchequer.

It followed an investigation into breaches by Instagram relating to children's data.

After submitting a draft decision for consideration by its fellow EU data watchdogs in December 2021, six of them raised objections.

The European Data Protection Board rejected some of the concerns, but upheld objections requiring the DPC to amend its draft decision to include an additional finding of infringement.

The DPC's original draft decision had recommended a fine of up to €405m.

The final penalty of €405m included a fine of €20m for the additional infringement that the DPC was asked to include.

In addition to the administrative fines, the DPC said it has also imposed a reprimand and an order requiring Meta, Instagram's parent company, to bring its processing into compliance by taking a range of specified remedial actions.

The investigation into Instagram focused on the public disclosure of email addresses and/or phone numbers of children using the Instagram business account feature and a public-by-default setting for personal Instagram accounts of children.

Meta said that the settings have since been updated and that it has released new features to help keep teens safe and their information private.

The company said it disagreed with how the fine was calculated and that it intended to appeal the ruling.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon said that fundamentally this case was about the protection of children and child users of Instagram.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said criticism that Ireland is too slow in reacting to these cases is "becoming old news" for those who have regard for the facts.

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Ms Dixon said Ireland suffered reputational damage in the mid-to late noughties when internet platforms moved into Ireland and has struggled to shed what was a bad start in terms of the central role Ireland has in digital regulation.

However, she added, that once the GDPR gave the office the powers it needed and the time to conduct proper investigations with due diligence, that the results started to flow.

The commissioner said the Government has given strong commitment to the office and said she is satisfied with its budget, which has increased incrementally each year, allowing it to recruit more staff.

We have extremely talented and committed staff, she said, but warned that the office needs to keep building if it is to progress more.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that overall, it was happy with the outcome of the Instagram investigation but it did express concern over the fact that objections had been raised about the DPC's draft decision by some of its fellow data watchdogs and by the European Data Protection Board.

"The decision is not perfect," said Dr Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow with ICCL.

"It is clear from other data protection authorities' examination of the DPC's work that there are problems, but the DPC has succeeded in forcing Instagram to fix a problem that had exposed children to risk for years," Dr Ryan said.

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Ombudsman calls for fine to be invested in children's services

The Ombudsman for Children has said proceeds from the fine imposed on Meta should be invested directly into children's services.

Dr Niall Muldoon said the fine had been imposed on Meta for putting teenagers in danger and would result in a windfall for the Irish exchequer.

He said the money should not go into the general pot but instead should be funnelled into services and supports that will directly benefit children, specifically vulnerable children and children experiencing poverty.

"The circumstances that brought about this massive fine are shocking and upsetting. Children should be protected while they are online, and we should be able to rely on those running the platforms they are using, to consider their safety and well-being," Dr Muldoon said.

"However, we cannot change what has happened and we must instead take the opportunity to turn a negative for children into a positive. I have long been advocating for ring-fenced funding for children and this is a real opportunity to specifically target funding in this way."

He said recent data showed that 581,334 people are living in poverty in Ireland and of this number, around 164,000 are children. He said 3,071 children were homeless.

"Here is a real opportunity to make a significant, targeted investment in the children who need help the most," he said.

Additional reporting Emma O Kelly