Let the Instagram backlash begin. A new exposé from The Wall Street Journal revealed that the photo-sharing service has become a major hub for advertisers to conduct some extremely targeted market research.
Think about it: The next time you're eating a burger from Carl's Jr. while wearing your brand new Celine tee, digital marketing companies such as Ditto Labs Inc. are using photo-scanning software to identify everything from the presence of logos on your clothing to the mood you were in when the photo was taken.
To its credit, Instagram does not operate under the pretense that your photos are private, unless they're appropriately tagged. In fact, in its endless terms of service agreement, Instagram makes clear that users' photos are fair game to be shared with third parties.
As we continue to share every part of ourselves online, the notion of online privacy is becoming more and more antiquated. "This is an area that could be ripe for commercial exploitation and predatory marketing,” said Joni Lupovitz, vice president at children’s privacy advocacy group Common Sense Media, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “Just because you happen to be in a certain place or captured an image, you might not understand that could be used to build a profile of you online.”
The good news is that some major brands have avoided using companies like Ditto (or at least claim not to), because the technique is seen as invasive.
To better understand exactly how your photos help marketers, the Journal also published an infographic that explains how your photos are broken down. Everything from your facial expression to the photo's background serve as data just waiting to mined.