Your Private Instagram Profile Can Still Be Viewed By Non-Followers

So, you think you are all safe by setting up your Instagram profile as private? Well, what if I tell you that this basic privacy promise by Instagram is full of flaws and your photos, videos or even stories on the platform were never really ‘private’?

If this has got your attention and you are worried about what I mean with my claim then your content can be assessed, downloaded and even shared publicly by your friends and family present in the account, all with the help of a simple trick!

Yes - you read that right. All you need is basic knowledge of HTML, an updated web browser and you are good to make the hack happen with just a few clicks. The user has to load up the selected images or videos on the web page and then extract the source URL out. Once the URL is pulled out, it can be shared and seen by anyone who is not on Instagram or doesn’t follow the account as well.

The trick worked extremely well when BuzzFeed's Tech team tried to do the same thing on their own for JPEGs and MP4s from private feeds. They were also successful in downloading, viewing and sharing Instagram stories as well. There was also a small surprise in case of Instagram stories that despite being deleted or expired after 24 hours, linking URLs to content made the stories stay valid for couple of days, while the photos on the feed lived for even longer.

It is worth noting that all of the Instagram data gets controlled by Facebook’s own content delivery network (CDN) and while Instagram keeps an eye on who sees your content on the app from time to time, they still don’t offer tracking when your data is being accessed via public URLs. To put it into simple words, if your friend or follower has shared your pictures or videos without your permission with the URL, you would never know who or how many people saw it.


This process is also way more different than taking a screenshot as these public URLs can provide some basic information about the photo or video like how it was uploaded, photo dimensions and its authenticity as well. Besides that even if you remove the selected photo or video, one can still access them via Facebook’s content delivery network.

Given that Facebook has already been struggling with privacy blunders lately, the company's spokesperson in response to the issue said that this behavior is pretty much similar to taking screenshot of a friend’s photo on Facebook or Instagram and sharing it to others without their permission. One still doesn’t get access to a person's private account. However, this statement goes exactly opposite to CEO Mark Zuckerberg's own privacy pledge as he once and for all promised to take full responsibility to protect user’s data in every possible way.

This is not the first time that loopholes in Instagram’s privacy setup has been exposed as prior to this in January 2015, Quartz figured out that when users posted photographs to Instagram while keeping the profile public, those pictures started to appear on Google even when the users switched back to keeping their profiles private.

Mark also made the claim that if they fail at protecting user’s data then Facebook doesn’t deserve to serve you. As big as the words may sound big, let’s see if the team at Instagram responds to the problem on time or not.


Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images

Read next: Instagram is Reportedly Working on a Password Unmasking Feature for its Login Page!

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