Facebook-owned social photo sharing app Instagram has banned one of its advertising partners HYP3R after a lapse in security along with a configuration error on its end, allowed the marketing company to scrape data of millions of users and their locations, without explicit consent of the concerned users.
Following criticism of the data harvesting campaign, Cambridge Analytica on Facebook, Instagram took the decision of disabling some parts of its API, which also included geo-location features. Facebook, the parent company of Instagram has sent out a cease-and-desist letter to HYP3R after the marketing firm’s activity was uncovered by business publication Business Insider.
Even though HYP3R had publicly supported the decision with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it had also, seemingly created tools that allowed it to scrape user data without prior knowledge or consent of users, thus taking advantage of the loopholes in Instagram’s APIs
According to the report, HYP3R had used Instagram data by zeroing down on specific user locations such as gyms or hotels. Secondly, it further collected geo-tagged stories, which normally disappear after 24 hours, while also combining other private data such as user ‘bios’ and number of followers, coupling it with the geo-tagged data.
In what has been a serious case of breach of privacy, it also used image recognition software to analyse what users have been depicting in the photos shared by them, however, the company did not collect any non-public data from users who have private profiles.
Despite the fact that Instagram’s policies were created and changed to avoid collection of user data , HYP3R managed to get detailed information about users, the liked photos and their movements, which definitely gave it an edge over other hybrid marketing companies.
Founded in 2015, HYP3R describes itself as a location-based marketing platform that uses geo-social data to acquire customers for businesses and engage them with deals and offers. The company relies on social media posts tagged with real-world locations to place relevant ads into the Instagram feed.
It had raised $17.3 million in funding, back in September 2018 from Silicon Valley Bank and Thayer Ventures.