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Angry For The Wrong Reasons, Instagram Storing Deleted Data

This article was initially published on Set Of Principles, a blog about privacy, open-source and internet culture. We have the author’s permission to repost this article on Zheano Blog. Check out Set Of Principles for more content like this and get notified when they publish new stories. 

We can see what an outrage security vulnerabilities cause in public. If we take a look at Instagram’s practices, since the acquisition by Facebook in 2012, we shouldn’t be too surprised. This is a story about the perception of social media, and how nothing is going to change unless you do something about it, leave social media.

First, I should give full credit to TechCrunch for breaking this story, excellent journalism! Secondly, I should state that some of the information in my article might be opinionated and based on speculation.

So what happened?

In the investigation, independent security researcher Saugat Pokharel found something strange. When downloading his Instagram data, he also found data that he deleted from his end. Most companies do take some time, in some cases up to 90 days, to delete your data from their systems. It’s funny how these companies can save (and use) your data in seconds, but take so long to remove it. However, in this case, it was a bug that caused data staying on the system even after the user deleted it.

“Instagram didn’t delete my data even when I deleted them from my end.” Mr Pokharel stated for the TechCrunch.

The bug has been reported to the Instagram’s bug bounty program back in 2019 and fixed earlier this month. Of course, it sounds a bit strange that it took so long to fix such a critical bug; however, that’s not the main problem.

Social Media’s Outreach

I’ve seen so many different comments about the issue, but most of the people are missing the main point. Everyone is worried about their deleted data, while we should be anxious about the data we provide and don’t delete. A couple of times a year, a big story about some misuse of data comes out, and everyone is worried. We need to change our behaviour and spread general awareness of how problematic these big systems are.

Data That We Don’t Delete

I believe there’s much more when it comes to data we provide to social media, like Instagram in this case. In the first place, we should start considering closing our social media accounts and reducing our digital footprint. I’ve deleted my Instagram and Snapchat a while ago, and I’ve never looked back.

Instagram’s direct messages are not encrypted as far as I know. So everything you write there is used against you, you’re the product. So no, Facebook doesn’t need to listen to your you; they can just read your texts. I’m not sure if there are any viable claims that Facebook is doing this. We need to remember that Facebook is a highly profitable business, and I’m sure they will take any chance to maximize their profits, reading your messages is just one of the ways to better ad-target you.

We should remember ourselves how toxic and harmful is social media and how much data we give them for free. I wish that one day I will live in a society where privacy is valued and is part of the core believes in all individuals.

What Are Solutions?

Delete your social media accounts. Well, that’s easier said than done, but just thinking and reading about it can go a long way. It’s a process, and you should take it this way. I might write more about removing yourself from social media in the upcoming articles. If you want to get more of my personal input about removing yourself from social media I would suggest reading my micro-blog called Hey It’s Me.

If you’re looking for a quick fix I would recommend switching to Signal whenever you can for any form of communication. Signal is a fantastic service, I use it daily, and I have no complaints. It might take some time to bring your friends on board, but it’s worth it.

I also believe that not all social media is terrible; humans are social beings, after all. I personally like Mastodon quite a lot. It’s like Twitter, but better, decentralized and community founded. You can follow me on Mastodon, where I usually toot about FOSS technology and privacy.


I’m sure we will hear about similar issues in the future. I don’t believe that these companies are going to change in any way, so we have to be the change. Reconsider your social media use and take control of your data. I will continue writing articles like this and spread the awareness about the harm social media does to humanity.

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