Instagram: Advertising company used data on a massive scale


A startup from San Francisco has secretly collected data from Instagram users. Specifically, millions of "stories" and location data were stored. The information apparently used the marketing company Hyp3r to create detailed user profiles of users – including movement patterns and possible interests. The incident evokes memories of the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica: In March 2018, it came to light that the analytics company had collected data from 87 million Facebook users. Instagram has been on Facebook since 2012.

Hyp3r is an advertising company specializing in location-based marketing. The data collected by Hyp3r on Instagram was publicly available but not for eternity. Instagrammers can post their experiences as "stories" that automatically disappear after 24 hours. In the stories you can post videos, photos, music and texts. Often, users link to their location when, for example, they scan their food, post it as a story and mark the restaurant.

Hyp3r had deliberately picked up the whereabouts, reported Business Insider in a detailed article, Automated, the information can not actually capture. But the startup has bypassed this lock and even developed its own tool to capture Instagram stories with location data. By the beginning of 2018, Hyp3r simply used Instagram's API before access to the Cambridge Analytica scandal was curtailed.

With the collected location data, Hyp3r can specifically target users who, for example, visited a particular hotel and linked it in an Instagram story. They then get to see advertisements from a competing hotel chain. However, Hyp3r's data-gathering activity violated Instagram's rules of use, the company says, sending a "cease and desist" warning to the startup. Had before Business Insider Instagram confronted with his research. Facebook listed Hyp3r in a directory of trusted advertisers and recommended the company to advertisers.

Hyp3r, hyp3r! The startup from San Francisco collected tons of Instagram data.

Hyp3r, hyp3r! The startup from San Francisco collected tons of Instagram data.

"We excluded (Hyp3r) from our platform," said an Instagram spokesperson. Any API access rights have been revoked from the startup. "Also, we've made a product change to prevent other companies from reading public location data in this way." Hyp3r, on the other hand, argues that accessing public data via Instagram was legitimate. The marketing firm expects to solve Instagram issues shortly. Hyp3r boss Carlos Garcia stressed that they had looked only publicly available information. ("Private" insta-stories are therefore not affected.) However, an Instagram spokesperson said that Hyp3r's practices violated the company's automated data collection rules.

One year after the data scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica, it is once again becoming clear that Facebook is apparently having a problem completely securing its users' data. This problem now extends to the daughter apps of the social network. Instagram is mostly run as a separate company and had nothing to do with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Instagram profiles are valuable data assets, after all, many users on the platform reveal much of themselves. They diligently post content from their everyday lives and provide them with valuable metadata that Hyp3r was also interested in.

The amount of data that Instagram's marketing startup has been able to tap for years is currently unknown. Business Insider writes that Hyp3r has advertised "unique records of hundreds of millions" of consumers. More than 90 percent of the raw data would come from Instagram. One source revealed that Hyp3r consumes a million Instagram posts per month. A former employee is surprised that Instagram allowed the access at all and did not protect the location data better. Hyp3r has never made a secret of his actions, writes Business Insider, Only the regular checks by Instagram were apparently too lax.


. (tagsToTranslate) Cambridge Analytica (t) Privacy (t) Facebook (t) Instagram