Major Instagram Ad Partner Banned for Secretly Tracking Users' Locations

Major Instagram Ad Partner Banned for Secretly Tracking Users' Locations

The company in question, San Francisco-based Hyp3r Inc., is alleged to have created tools that allowed it to collect public Instagram data, including user posts, profile information and location data. It reportedly included location information, profile information, follower lists, and Instagram Stories - the latter of which are typically meant to disappear after 24 hours. The company publicly praised Instagram's decision to protect its users' privacy, releasing a statement that said Hyp3r, "understand [s] and welcome [s] the changes that Facebook is making to protect the privacy of all of us", but according to Business Insider's sources, the marketing firm immediately got to work bypassing these restrictions behind the scenes.

After all the scandals around third-party companies use of data obtained from Facebook, now there's a controversy brewing around Instagram too.

But, HYP3R - which describes itself as a "location-based marketing platform that helps business unlock geosocial data" - told Business Insider it did not break any rules in the way it gathered data.

Hyp3r CEO Carlos Garcia argued in an emailed statement to Business Insider, however, that its actions were not in violation of Instagram's rules.

What HYP3R primarily did was to save users' Stories at specific locations such as hotels, and gyms. Access to data from the Stories feature is not available through Instagram's API.

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In recent news, a similar case was registered with Facebook in March 2018, where a political consulting firm gained access to data of over 87 million Facebook users without any authorization. The marketing firm has raised over $23 millions in funding, and up until yesterday they were identified as a trusted Facebook Marketing Partner. As Price points out, though, that definitely runs counter to the expectations of Instagram users-who expect stories to evaporate after a day, and who don't expect data from their regular posts to be horded by digital marketers. "As a result, we've removed them from our platform".

The BBC has contacted Hyp3r but the company has not yet responded to a request for comment.

"Hyp3r is, and has always been, a company that enables legit, savory marketing that is compliant with consumer privacy laws and social network Terms of Products and services". The company does not trespass into viewing any information or content that can not be accessed publicly.

A recently implemented fix cuts off access to this information if a user isn't logged into their Instagram account.

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