So you took a selfie...

A case study of Instagram data policy

Illustration of girl taking selfie

Instagram and other popular online apps are free. This is because you are the product — a source of valuable data.

Photo of coffee cup lid You logged onto the Starbucks WIFI, which is added to your Facebook ad profile.
facebook logo Parent company of Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Giphy,and others.
Which is shared with the political advertiser who just sent you an email based on your coffee preference.
Coldspark logo Pittsburgh-based political ad agency Campaign strategy for Sen. Pat Toomey
Photo of footprint Your location data from the past month is shared with a location data company
PlaceIQ logo Location Data Company
The exact location data of millions of "anonymous" internet users is then sold to government agencies.
ICE Logo Division of Homeland Security; est. 2003
Photo of phone battery The daily depletion rate of your phone and its charging schedule create a fingerprint of your device, which is shared with an ad partner.
media math logo Demand-Side Platform; enables advertisers to control digital ads across various networks.
Your device fingerprint links your Instagram account with your web history — even though you used an incognito window — and you start receiving ads for the medical condition you just Googled.
Dupixent logo Pharmaceutical company Spent $199 million on advertising in 2019

Here's everything that's collected about you

  • When you sign up for an account
  • When you create or share content
  • Your photos, videos, and stories
  • Your direct messages
  • Your comments
  • Comments about you
  • Metadata, such as the location of a photo
  • What you see through the camera
  • Your life events
  • Religious or political views
  • Information about your health or interests such as philosophical beliefs
  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Union memberships
  • People, pages, accounts, hashtags, and groups you are connected to and how you interact with them
  • Who you communicate with the most
  • Your personal contact list
  • SMS log history
  • The features you use
  • The actions you take
  • The time, frequency, and duration of your activities
  • Financial transaction information
  • Billing and shipping information
  • The computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices you use
  • Device battery level
  • Device hardware and software versions
  • Device signal strength
  • Available storage space
  • Browser type
  • Whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded
  • Mouse movements
  • Device IDs, usernames, and unique identifiers from games, apps, or accounts you use
  • Bluetooth signals
  • Information about nearby WIFI access points and cell towers
  • GPS location
  • Information about your mobile provider and ISP
  • Your phone number
  • Information about other devices that are nearby or on your network
  • Cookie data
  • Information from advertiser partners about your activity on other websites or devices, including websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services.

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