Wednesday 18 September 2019

Young Instagram users lose privacy to gain followers

Many parents don't know their children are using business accounts on Instagram. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
Many parents don't know their children are using business accounts on Instagram. Photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Sarah Frier

Millions of young people are turning their personal Instagram accounts into "business" profiles to achieve higher follower counts. But the pursuit of popularity has an unintended privacy consequence.

In order to be classified as a business on Facebook's Instagram, users agree to provide their phone number or email to the public on the app. Their choice - made much easier by Instagram's design and prompting - can endanger their privacy and that of their friends, according to David Stier, an independent data scientist who reported the issue to the company, and conducted a broad analysis on 200,000 accounts around the world with several sampling techniques.

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"I'll talk to parents and say, 'Did you know that if your 13-year-old turns their Instagram account into a business account, more than 1 billion people have access to their contact information?'" Stier said. "Every parent I talk to is like, 'Are you kidding?'"

Many social media sites, including Instagram, set the minimum age at 13, a rule that many teens and even younger kids regularly flout to sign up.

In Instagram's settings, there's an option called "Get More Tools." If users click the link, they'll be asked if they're a "creator" or a "business." After they say what kind of user they are, they'll be asked what contact information they want to display. Then they're rewarded with a host of charts about how they're performing on Instagram, including what days and times people view their posts, which ones were most popular and how often and by what gender their profile is seen.

Bloomberg

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