Instagram bans ad partner for secretly collecting user data

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August 8, 2019
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The photo-centric social media platform — Instagram has just kicked out a marketing startup from its platform after determining it improperly collected user data. Instagram took the action on Hyp3r after finding the startup scraped public data such as users’ physical locations, profile information, and photos to serve better-targeted ads.

The Facebook-owned social network has recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to the San Francisco-based company after learning of the activity from Business Insider, which reported on the data collection earlier. Information collected by Hyp3r included data stored in Instagram Stories, content designed to disappear after 24 hours and not available through the company’s API.

An Instagram spokesperson said;

“Hyp3r’s actions were not sanctioned and violate our policies. As a result, we’ve removed them from our platform. We’ve also made a product change that should help prevent other companies from scraping public location pages in this way.“

The social media network has been under scrutiny since last year when the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had misused Facebook user data in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified in front of Congress and the European Parliament to answer questions about Facebook’s handling of user data.

Hyp3r CEO Carlos Garcia said in an email statement;

“Hyp3r is and has always been, a company that enables authentic, delightful marketing that is compliant with consumer privacy regulations and social network Terms of Services. We do not view any content or information that cannot be accessed publicly by everyone online.”

A portion of what Hyp3r is scraping comes from Instagram’s Location pages, which highlight images from public accounts that have been geo-tagged. This data was formerly visible to anyone, regardless of whether they are logged into an Instagram account. A recently implemented fix cuts off access to this information if a user isn’t logged into their Instagram account. This new restriction will apply to all companies.

Meanwhile, Instagram is making various changes in its platform and the latest one they made is that the platform will now issue warnings to users who are in danger of having their accounts on Instagram banned. The website has added this change to address policy violations from the users.

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