As they prepare to remove the number of likes from the Instagram platform, millions of young Instagram users are switching to a business account to better measure the performance of their posts. At this point, let’s say that young users inadvertently compromise their privacy.
Because the privacy agreements of accounts classified as businesses on Instagram, owned by Facebook Inc., are different from those of personal users. Users who prefer a business account agree that information such as phone numbers or email addresses will be public in the app.
David Stier, an independent data scientist, said it jeopardizes the privacy of both young people using business accounts and their friends. Stier reported this problem to the company and conducted a broad analysis of more than 200,000 accounts by experimenting with different sampling techniques.
Many parents, too, are unaware that more than 1 billion people will have access to their 13-year-old child’s contact information on Instagram, Stier said.
Many social networks, including Instagram, set a 13-year age limit to register on the platform, but children under the age of 13 can easily break it. Pressing “Access more vehicles” in Instagram’s settings asks users if they are “content producers” or “businesses.” Users are also forced to provide contact information that will be on the profile after choosing between the two.
After switching to a business account, young people have more access to the performance of their profiles. Information such as what days and hours of the week are displayed more, which content is more popular, and how often the profile is viewed by a demographic, seems to be more important for young people than privacy for the time being.
In a statement, Instagram said:
Stier noticed that there were many young people who switched to a business account as a result of his research. Some young people present themselves as “non-profit organizations”, while others describe themselves as athletes. Looking at the accounts, these young people are in no way related to a business.
After Stier reported the situation to Facebook, Instagram reduced the visibility of its contact information. However, the company stresses that Stier’s findings pose a vulnerability and that the choice depends entirely on users.
Stier thinks Instagram should protect users’ privacy, even though the choice belongs to users. Stier said that a contact form should be provided in business tools for younger users, and reminds that this is preferred by many businesses.