It didn’t take Instagram long after it first launched in 2010 to rapidly gain in popularity. These days, it’s got as many as 500 million users checking up on their feeds every day, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Of course, with this many people using an app, it’s pretty evident that this is a great place to put your brand. There are many companies big and small out there that are making the most of the reach they can get through the gram. So, what does this mean in terms of data? Let’s find out.
Is Someone Watching?
You may be familiar with that feeling when you’re in a crowd – you get a hunch that someone is watching you. Every time you look around to find them, they seem to stop. While this could just be a coincidence, when things like this happen too much, it starts to get a little suspicious.
This is something that is happening all the time on apps like Instagram, but because it’s happening so much, you may have gotten so used to it that you don’t have to know it’s happening. You Google a new pair of shoes, hoping to find a good deal. Then merely half a day later, you see an ad for shoes in your feed.
Or you see an ad on Instagram for a product you like, so you click on it. Before you know it, you see more ads from the same brand. It’s just like someone is watching and monitoring your online activity, but you don’t know who they are, and you can’t see them.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a coincidence – Instagram is really doing this. This is because they make most of their money by selling their user’s targeted ads. This is big money we’re talking, in the billions. Of course, brands are only going to pay this type of money if they have an increase in profit. So, which this in mind, what kind of info as Instagram got on you?
Remember when you were in school, and someone would join halfway through the year? You would talk to your friends about them and see what they thought as well. This is what Instagram does about you. Both Instagram and Facebook are comparing notes on you as a user and see how you interact with both of their platforms. This way, they can build a pretty accurate idea of what kind of person you are, and what things you’re interested in.
Instagram also makes the most of its high profile business partnerships to gather user data. One way that Facebook does this is they offer to help you log in to other apps, like Instagram, when you log in to Facebook. While this may sound convenient, it’s really opening a gateway between Facebook and Instagram so that they can keep track of your movements.
All of Your Movements
If you’ve experienced what it feels like to have someone who is stalking you, you’ll know that it’s not a nice feeling. This is what Instagram is doing to you – it knows your location, and even if you adjust your privacy settings, it still keeps track of where you are. They do this through your camera and even your Bluetooth. And while this sounds a little bit conspiracy theory-esque, you can read all about it in their data policy.
Instagram knows everything, from your phone number and what mobile company you’re signed up to, to your IP address. Of course, they use all of this information to figure out your exact location with ease. This means that Instagram can know things like where you work, where you live, where you like to shop, and even where your kids go to school.
Go to the doctor, and you can expect an ad for a pharmaceutical product to pop up on your feed in the future.
All of Your Words
Of course, Facebook is a vehement denier of tracking its users and says that it doesn’t use your microphone to listen to your conversations. There are many people that attest to the fact that their conversations are being listened to by their devices.
There are many who report having a discussion about a particular product, only to see an ad for it on Facebook or Instagram a few hours later. While there is a chance that this is a coincidence, there’s also a chance that there’s not.
Everything you do in your daily life can provide Instagram with valuable information. Of course, the more they know about what you like to buy, the better they can target you as a consumer with their ads. When they have the full picture of you and can target you based on your interests, they can make advertising money – a lot of it.
They know more than you may care to think about. They know your gender, what you like to eat, your sexual preferences, even what you like to wear. They may even know things that hardly anyone else does about you.
Sharing Your Data
Instagram gathering your data is frightening enough, but this isn’t the end of the story. What’s the point of gathering all of this information if they’re not going to share the love? Instagram is actively gathering your data and then selling it to third party companies so that they can work out their target demographic and what their customers like best. If you’ve ever signed ‘agree’ on something and you didn’t read the fine print, there’s a good chance that this involved Instagram being allowed to sell your data to a third party.
There are many companies out there that have good privacy policies, but not all of Instagram’s partners do. This means that third-party companies themselves may turn around and share your information with someone else. Of course, Instagram is an easy target for public backlash, because they’re so well known. Another much smaller company, on the other hand, can get by undetected.
Your Privacy is Important
There’s nothing too bad about Instagram using the information they have on you to put the right ads in front of you. In fact, there are a lot of people who appreciate this convenience. However, there is something disturbing and wrong about how much information Instagram actually gathers, and the fact that they are so willing to sell it to someone else.
While you can adjust your privacy settings on Instagram, this simply isn’t going to be enough. One easy way to make sure that your activity on Instagram is totally anonymous and untraceable is by using a VPN. A VPN can separate you from the apps you use so that they can’t get as much of your personal information as usual. This is going to go a long way to protect your privacy online, and can also help with other things like unlocking restricted websites.
Whether you’re willing to take the risk or you think that a VPN is the best way forward, it’s essential to know as much about Instagram’s privacy settings as possible.