Does Your Social Media Use Put Your Community At Risk? Instagram in Context

One advocate asks tough questions about community safety and political security online.

By Jamilah King Dec 20, 2012

There’s been plenty of uproar this week about Instagram’s proposed privacy changes. Even the Kardashians are outraged. The social media app, which was purchased by Facebook in 2011, announced that starting January 16, users’ photos would basically be up for grabs for advertisers. In trying to address people’s widespread concern, the company released an updated statement admitting that "from the start, Instagram was created to become a business" and that "advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become self-sustaining."

Instagram’s admission of its intentions underscores an important point: users are products. On Thursday, the Center for Media Justice’s Amalia Deloney posted an insightful piece about her own reasons for leaving Instagram, and why concerns around privacy go far beyond just one company. Deloney explained that her reasons had more to do with the safety of those around her:

In the 2 years I had an account, I’d posted nearly 400 photos.  Most of the photos were innocuous–shots of buildings, traveling, food or architecture.  However, there were also dozens of photos of friends, family and community.  It’s here-among the photos of the people I most care about-that I realized the real privacy rights and standards that are needed across social media platforms. A tweet, an update, a posted pic or ‘friending’ could be dangerous–even life threatening.  Why do I say this? Because amidst my 400 photos, I found the following:

  • Many photos of minors–mainly nieces and nephews
  • 8 photos of individuals currently on parole
  • 6 photos of community members with mixed immigration status
  • 1 photo of a woman who has an active Order for Protection against her husband
  • 1 photo of a woman who is living in Transitional Housing while pursuing a VAWA asylum case
  • 4 photos of children who have CPS workers or Guardians Ad Litem involved in their families
  • 2 photos of individuals who attend services at "surveilled" religious institutions

These people are not strangers-they’re my family, my friends and members of my community! Some are organizers or political activists, most are not.  Most are regular people who had their picture taken and posted as part of a virtual archive of happy times and important memories- snapshots of our everyday lives, specific moments in time.

Read the entire post here.

The point isn’t to eliminate social media use altogether, but perhaps to think more intentionally about the fact that our online community may be a lot bigger than we think.