In an attempt to further beat trolls and bots, Instagram will soon ask some users to verify their identity. If it notices a “potential inauthentic behavior,” Instagram will ask suspicious users to submit their government ID.
According to Instagram, the new policy won’t affect most regular users like you or me. It’s aimed at accounts “potentially engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior,” those where the majority of followers are in a different country to their location or those with signs of automation (bots). These accounts will be asked to confirm who they are by uploading a valid ID. Once their information is verified, their account will function as usual unless there’s a reason for further investigation.
“IDs will be stored securely and deleted within 30 days once our review is completed,” Instagram writes, “and won’t be shared on the person’s profile as pseudonymity is still an important part of Instagram.” Note that you can’t upload photos of your ID that have been digitally modified to hide information. Instead, Instagram asks you to physically cover any sensitive information on your ID:
“We ignore any sensitive information on your ID that is not required for our review, such as your ID number or social security number. Please physically cover any non-essential information on your ID before you take a photo of the document.”
Other than verifying suspicious accounts and fighting bots, there are a few more cases when Instagram will ask for a copy of your ID:
- To confirm that the account you’re trying to access belongs to you.
- To confirm or edit your age.
- To process payments.
- To help prevent abuse such as scams or phishing.
According to Engadget, the policy change comes just in time for the 2020 election. Instagram has already been under fire for not sanctioning election meddling in 2016. By introducing the identity verification, the app reportedly is trying to avoid making the same mistake.
Now, while this decision could be a good solution to stop bots, it could raise other concerns. Although Instagram will delete photos of your ID, they will still remain stored for 30 days. And perhaps you remember that users’ private data have been exposed due to a bug. I can only hope that Instagram’s new policy will indeed affect only a small number of users and really target only those that behave in a suspicious manner.