With more than 100 million users, Facebook-owned Instagram is one of the Web’s most popular photo-sharing applications. However, the large number of teenagers and preteens using the app has some parents alarmed, with a recent petition on Change.org requesting changes to Instragram privacy settings collecting nearly 5,000 signatures.
At the heart of the petitioners’ grievances are the default settings for Instragram users, which are not only automatically public — which means user photos can wind up on search engine image searches — but also “geotagged,” meaning that information about the photo-taker’s location can be easily identified by others.
For Instagram users between the ages of 13 and 17, petitioners are urging Facebook to automatically set photographs as private and deactivate geolocation features.
While Facebook policies do not allow children younger than 13 to use the Instagram application, many pre-teens have managed to skirt the company’s age-restricted policies; in 2011, Consumer Reports estimated the number of Facebook users under the age of 12 at some 7 million.
On July 1, federal child privacy law revisions will require social networks such as Facebook to obtain parental consent before collecting individual data from users under the age of 18 — information that includes email addresses, uploaded videos or photographs.
While many advocates of social media registration changes cite youth safety as their utmost concern, some public interests groups believe mediums like Instagram are also havens for entirely different kinds of predators — child-targeting advertisers.
“Facebook is not doing enough to ensure children under 13 don’t have access to the site,” Center for Digital Democracy Digital Food Marketing and Youth Initiative Project Director Joy Spencer is quoted by The Washington Post. “That raises a number of concerns about safety and because Instagram then is able to collect personally identifiable information on children, which can be used to target ads toward them in the future.”
Photo courtesy of Karl Nisson / Flickr