The photo-sharing app for iPhones and Androids will be able to share content and information like cookies or device identifiers with affiliates like Facebook, which purchased the company for $1 billion in April. The change, slated to go into effect Jan. 16, is the reflection of similar changes announced by Facebook last month and implemented last week, which allow the company to share user information with Instagram.
For users, the codified information pipeline between the two platforms means that eventually, Facebook users could see advertisements based on their Instagram activity — something that could rub some the wrong way, said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy for the Center for Democracy & Technology. The change isn’t a big surprise, he added, since Facebook already showed last month that information sharing was on the horizon. But the worry, he indicated, would be if activity on one site is automatically shared on the other.
“What people are probably understandably concerned about, which really should not happen, is if the stuff you do on Instagram starts being shared automatically with your friends on Facebook. That would contravene existing privacy controls, and I think that would violate the [Federal Trade Commission] order,” he said, referring to the consent decree the agency made with Facebook last year.
Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg, though, said this month’s changes warrant a look now from the FTC.
The connection between the two platforms is an about-face from Facebook’s desire to see Instagram grow independently, he argued, and needs to be vetted for a possible violation of the consent order.
“I think this is contrary to the current settlement,” he said. “The FTC needs to make a public determination as to whether the incorporation of Instagram data is permissible under the 2011 consent order.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding compliance with the FTC order.