Facebook-owned Instagram is taking a significant step forward to protect user privacy when it comes to third-parties, the company announced. Specifically, the company is working to make it easier for its users to control the data that's shared outside of Instagram.
For clarity, that's the data users choose to export when they connect Instagram to another service or app. It additionally includes the data shared when Instagram photos are imported to another app or service.
Now, in the Instagram app, users will be able to remove access for apps or services that have been approved.
The app will also show an updated screen when users are authorizing the above-mentioned data transaction. That screen no longer just lists the app or service requesting data but details the extent of the data that will be passed off. That gives users the opportunity to approve authorization or not, based on whether they're comfortable with the data being shared.
Access the new Instagram privacy features on your account
The update delivering the privacy controls to Instagram users — at least as it pertains to third-parties — won't necessarily be arriving quickly. Instagram says the process will take approximately six months.
Once the changes do arrive, accessing the tools will be fairly straightforward. Users can get there by navigating to their in-app settings, by first tapping to access their profile. Then, users need to tap the three-dash menu icon at the top-right-hand side of the UI.
After tapping the "Settings" option under that menu, users will see an option titled "Security."
In the subsequent menu, the "Apps and Websites" option can be found. There, Instagram presents users with a list of third-party sites, apps, and services that have access. A rectangular "Remove" button to the right of those list entries removes their respective access.
The new authorization UI will show up automatically during that process.
An unanswered question
There are a couple of caveats about the new Instagram update. To begin with, it won't necessarily remove access to data that's already been shared. It only stops new data from being shared. So those entities will still have access to any profile information they've already garnered and to any photos. That includes all of those photos' metadata, such as location and time stamps.
Instagram's decision to provide wider user control over their privacy doesn't come as a surprise. It's an approach many in the technology industry have begun taking in the wake of increasingly widespread laws and regulations forcing greater transparency and control.
That regulation was spurred in large part by revelations around Instagram's parent company, Facebook. Namely, Facebook was found to have policies and practices that allowed severe misuse of user data and collections. That ultimately led to investigations after an enormous effort by foreign governments to use that data to influence political processes. Included in that is the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Facebook itself has also been at the center of a sizeable number of security and privacy breaches.
This change applies only to third-parties given access directly by users. So one question that remains is how well Instagram can safeguard data that it inadvertently collects from its own users.