Our Stories
Get an inside look at the people, places, experiences and ideas that move us.


Instagram Is Probably Spying on you

Published on 22 May 2019

You have probably been in this situation before; you were just talking to your friend about going on vacation, maybe you threw a couple of destinations around, nothing major just talking. Then later that day, you are scrolling through Instagram, not looking for much then an ad pops up of that vacation spot you were just talking about. That’s weird, you didn’t even search for it, it was right there on your feed waiting for you.

Almost everyone has been in this creepy scenario where you felt like your phone is spying on you. Recently many conspiracies have come up ranging from superior technology to actual espionage. People believe that Instagram is spying on them. So let’s explore the possibilities.

The Facebook Con(nection)

Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 in a bid to control the social media space. Facebook has in recent times been accused of spying on users and then selling information to third parties- for instance advertisers, while also manipulating their feeds to fit their users tastes and interests. CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in 2018, saying that Facebook does not and never has spied on anyone. They simply use the information you give them to curate what you see on your timeline. For instance, if you like or follow a page dedicated to home décor, Facebook’s superior algorithm then curates what you will see which will essentially be more ads for home décor pages. Simple. They are not spying on you. Allegedly.

There has always been a rumor that they use the microphones on our phones to listen in to our conversations. This may be true because when you install the application, it asks for several permissions, including permission to access and use the microphone. On the record, this is supposed to only be used when you record audio on Facebook, but the application still has access to the microphone and they can use it to their discretion even when you are not using Facebook at the time.

So does this mean that Instagram is using the same business practice to target users? The platform is now owned by Facebook and judging from Zuckerberg’s previous megalomaniac tendencies in running a business, it is safe to assume that Instagram is also listening to you and listening intently.

Technology experts are split on whether Facebook and Instagram are just using a superior algorithm and are very thorough in running their applications by closely monitoring what their users do online: they are able to build a profile on you based on what you do on the platforms, who you follow, the pictures you like and of course our search history or they are actually spying on their users.

Protecting yourself online

If you feel uncomfortable with Facebook and Instagram’s policies on privacy, we don’t blame you. They haven’t always been the best at data security, for instance; Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm harvested raw data from up to 87 million users on Facebook. How you ask, let us explain in simple terms: Facebook allowed them to create a quiz that would be uploaded on the platform, the quiz was taken by 50 million users so that they could collect data from the users only but Cambridge Analytica was able to manipulate a loophole in Facebook’s API which allowed them to collect information from users, the apps they use and their friends, even if they did not participate in the quiz.

So knowing Facebook’s shortcomings in data security, how do you protect yourself? You can switch to other platforms. Though this may be a herculean effort since a lot of people place their personal worth on how popular they are on Instagram not to mention that many people use Instagram to promote their businesses and reach clients. So the next best thing is being stingy with the information you give online, don’t share your location all the time, don’t reveal your birthdate, your mother’s name or even your pet’s name. Secondly, activate privacy settings and restrict third party apps from accessing your account. Here’s how to do it:

  • Log in to Instagram on a browser on your computer or phone, and click or tap the person icon on the upper-right corner of the screen.
  • Click or tap on the gear icon.
  • Click on “Authorized Apps.” (Look for it on the left-hand menu.) You will see a list of apps that have been authorized to access Instagram.
  • Click on the “Revoke Access” button for any app that you want to unauthorize, and then select “Yes.”

And there you go, you have protected yourself from harm by third party apps. But what about Instagram getting access to your personal information? Well that all goes back to how much information you put out there. There isn’t a guarantee that Facebook and Instagram won’t attempt to get your information but what matters is that there won’t be any valuable information to harvest in the first place.

 


Payment methods supported across Africa