Privacy concerns after Instagram's acquisition by Facebook

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy, Social networks

Instagram and Facebook, image by Jonathan360It's the big tech headline of the week: Facebook has announced it is buying the popular photo-sharing app Instagram for a cool billion dollars.

But should Instagram's 30 million users - who are reportedly uploading five million new photos to the service each day - have worries about the acquisition?

Certainly if you looked on Twitter when the news of the deal was announced earlier this week, you would have got the feeling that many Instagram users were less than enamoured by the deal.

Tweets regarding Instagram purchase by Facebook

It's understandable that some people might feel some trepidation when their favourite online service gets gobbled up by a much larger player - even if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been keen to stress that they don't want to upset Instagram's loyal fanbase.

One issue that some Instagram users have raised is privacy, and how their uploaded pictures might be used in future. After all, when they uploaded their photos they thought they were putting them in the care of Instagram, not the social behemoth that is Facebook.

Is it possible that marketers will be able to glean more information about you, and your activities, by delving into the photos you have uploaded to Instagram? Could Facebook's incentive for gobbling up Instagram for such a high price be because they see future value from its photo treasure trove from advertisers and marketers?

Perhaps. But users need to recognise that they might have been at least slightly complicit in this.

What needs to be recognised is that anytime you decide to store your information online, you should also assume that it could be used for marketing purposes and that it may be publicly available.

The acquisition of Instagram is a perfect example of how data shared online may have an uncertain future. As Instagram's policies state, they are "subject to change without notice" and users should be sure they are comfortable with their information being used in any way they can imagine.

Instagram logo

Although some Instagram users have been clamouring to download all their photos and move them to another service, it's not clear what they really think they are accomplishing through this.

Any service may choose to follow similar practices as Facebook or be purchased by them tomorrow. If you want full control of your information, keep it on computers and servers under your own control, and only make it available to who you want.

Image credit: Jonathan360

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3 Responses to Privacy concerns after Instagram's acquisition by Facebook

  1. Don · 1280 days ago

    Facebook sucks! They won't let you delete old profile or cover photos from your Timeline.I tried to clean up my timeline page and there's noware to delete these pic's.But you can delete other pic's So what will they do with your Instagram photos? Iv'e never trusted Facebook but i live on the east coast and there a way to stay intouch with my family in California.But I have deleted all of my profile and changed my settings to only me.And that sucks because i would like to have a profile but ya just can't trust Facebook with your infomation.

  2. JohnLincoln · 1278 days ago

    Hmmm! Interesting. And might this apply, at some future point, to anything stored in the cloud? Let us look at the bigger picture and assume stored on-line content becomes revenue generating property in the way Mr. Zuckerberg sees it: might Google slurp opportunities from Google Docs. And might Microsoft, for example, be able to slurp Office365 and sell add-targeting opportunities (through third-party cookies) from my companies' on-line documents to Google to target adds on my browser? So, back to the old cookie-disabled Lynx browser, eh? Hehehe!

  3. pmossgate · 1275 days ago

    I am surprised that Instagram users didn't raise a much bigger stink over Instagram leaking their data before the purchase.

    You said "What needs to be recognised is that anytime you decide to store your information online, you should also assume that it could be used for marketing purposes and that it may be publicly available."

    If the site doesn't have the options for its users stuff to be PRIVATE then the site should be spammed and dumped in the ocean.

    Assume is a nasty word, and I think Felix Unger said it best, "When you Assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME."

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley