Instagram has announced a new feature that allows you to download your information. Instagram’s “Data Download” feature can be accessed through the app’s privacy settings. It lets users export their photos, videos, archived Stories, your profile information, comments and non-ephemeral messages. The downside to this? It can take a few hours or even days for your download to be ready. This isn’t available yet to all iOS and Android users, but it can be accessed from the web. The tool’s launch is necessary for Instagram to comply with the data portability rule in European Union’s GDPR privacy law that goes into effect on May 25th. But it’s also a reasonable concession. Instagram has become the dominant image sharing social network with over 800 million users. It shouldn’t need to lock up users’ data in order to keep them around.
With everything that’s going on with Facebook, and the concept that your data might be sold or given to third parties, without your consent makes this new feature very timely. It’s also really good news. This is maybe not surprising, given the fact that Instagram kind of plays dirty when it comes to other social networking apps. Meaning, this could give them a leg up on Snapchat, who currently doesn’t have this feature just yet. But, if they too want to adhere to GDPR rules, then perhaps this is the next step for them.
Regardless of compliance rules or not, I think that this speaks to a larger question – who owns the content you post on Instagram? I think we know the answer to this, but since you took the photos shouldn’t you have some say in what happens to that content and information? It’s also interesting, part of the reason that Instagram has implemented this feature is so that you can download your data and then leave. Which, makes sense, but it seems odd to me.
WhatsApp also announced that it too will be rolling out a Data Download tool to all users globally. Part of this update is to be able to comply with GDPR rules. Users will be able to export their “account info” which includes their profile photo and group names, but not messages which can be exported or backed up by some phones. WhatsApp is increasing the minimum age to use its app from 13 to 16 in Europe (though it will stay 13 everywhere else). It’s also set up a business entity for operating in Europe, and clarified that it doesn’t share user data with Facebook though it hopes to if regulators let it in the future. However, it does share security and anti-spam data to block bad actors on both apps.
This is all coming at an extremely interesting time. Is this just a matter of being in compliance with regulations, or are these companies trying to be more open and transparent with users about what they’re doing with your information? Afterall, no one wants to be lumped in with Facebook. I’m also shocked that these kinds of features haven’t been implemented before now. But I guess no one really knew or understood where our data could be going. Rather, people did know, but not necessarily users. I’m glad to see more of these features being put forward by social networking sites, and I hope that people become more aware of who or what has their data.