Thousands of children using Instagram are letting their phone number or email address be made public on their profiles, potentially leaving them open to online predators, scammers or grooming.
David Stier, a San Francisco-based data scientist and business adviser who recently brought a data exposure issue to Instagram’s attention, uncovered the situation.
The minors in question have converted their Instagram profiles from personal ones to “business” ones, a category of profile Instagram introduced three years ago.
During that process, users are given the option to list their email address and phone number, or both. Instagram requires that at least one of those pieces of information is public, and business profiles overall can’t be private – meaning all photos are visible.
The above is an excerpt from Information Management Today
I tested this today, which involved creating an account as I’m not an Instagram user, and then switched it to a business account and just kept pressing next to take me through the steps to set it up.
The first step advises that it will add a contact button to make it easier for people to get in touch with you, but it does not state the actual number will be made public.
A later step in the conversion asks you to confirm your phone number and again references the new buttons, but again, no warning that the phone number will be visible to everyone.
I asked my Instagram loving friend if they could access my number and lo and behold when the call button is pressed on a business account the number pops up as shown below. I don’t really need to state the obvious about what this number could be used for.
When an email and phone number are added a Contact button replaces the Call button and displays all information.
This was very easy to do even not being familiar with the platform and could be done accidentally by children trying to get more followers, as the business account offers insights and promotions. While Instagram is not technically doing anything wrong, there are no requirements to prove age or business status.
My Instagram savvy friend instantly checked her daughter’s profile for the telltale call or contact button and was relieved to find it absent, but even she, a long time user of Instagram was not aware of this Instagram Loophole.
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