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Report: Instagram User Data and Stories Were Being Harvested by One of the App's Marketing Partners

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One of Instagram’s preferred marketing partners compiled massive amounts of data from millions of Instagram users over the last year, including tracking information on their physical locations and saving their stories, Rob Price at the Business Insider reported this afternoon. HYP3R, an Instagram-approved marketing startup based in San Francisco used what Price calls “a combination of configuration errors and lax oversight” to save the user data, in violation of Instagram’s policies. So all those Insta stories you thought would vanish after 24 hours were scraped and saved by HYP3R, who also kept track of your daily movements.

Instagram has already kicked HYP3R off its platform, Price reports, and “made a product change” that will prevent others from tracking location data in the same way. Still, HYP3R was able to exploit Instagram users’ data for months without detection, creating a database that would come in handy for a self-proclaimed “location-based marketing platform.” And it was made possible by a social media company whose owner, Facebook, had a major scandal involving data security just a year ago

HYP3R exclusively collected public data, using its own tools to scrape stories and location data from accounts that weren’t set to private. Their stance is that this data was already released in the public, and so it was fine for them to collect it. As Price points out, though, that definitely runs counter to the expectations of Instagram users—who expect stories to evaporate after a day, and who don’t expect data from their regular posts to be horded by digital marketers.

Price breaks down the story in great detail, and it’s a must-read if you’re an Instagram user, or interested in security and privacy issues in the social media age. It’s another reminder that you can’t really trust anybody else to protect your personal information on the internet, and one more reason to regret ever signing up for social media in the first place. And since Business Insider warns that the story will be going behind its paywall eventually, you should read it sooner rather than later.

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