If you wanted to confuse Instagram, here's how.
February 11, 2020 8:45 AM   Subscribe

 
IB4: The Kids Are All Right.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:09 AM on February 11 [11 favorites]


Ahh, the 2020 equivalent of Rob Cockerham's Ultimate Shopper project.

Password resets don't end Instagram sessions, so both you and the second person will be able to access the same account at the same time.

This seems like a loophole that will be fixed as soon as Instagram becomes aware of this issue. Unless Facebook's surveillance is so advanced that they know, don't care, and are more interested in using the data to discover and exploit the underlying trust networks linking the users of these accounts.
posted by DSime at 9:09 AM on February 11 [11 favorites]


This only appears to work because Facebook lets it appear to work.

If you've got Facebook or Whatsapp installed on the same device, it's trivial to figure out who you really are and connect it back to your real accounts. This is what Facebook is good at, moreso than building apps to connect people, since it makes them money. If this gets big enough (or is already, considering it's in the news), Facebook has more incentive to do this tracking.

It's like believing that if you never log into a web page, then you're completely anonymous.
posted by meowzilla at 9:14 AM on February 11 [9 favorites]


Internet chaff is a thing. More sand into the gears, I say.
posted by jquinby at 9:19 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Unless Facebook's surveillance is so advanced that they know,

Can't speak for FB, but as someone who has worked on systems that groups of people (in my case, foreign organized crime syndicates, not teenagers) try to game for their benefit, I would practically guarantee this "we'll confuse the algorithm!" effort is all for naught since they almost certainly thought of and fixed this issue years go. Especially since so much engineering effort had to be poured into trying to get the single from the noise even if people are messing with it on purpose. In fact, FB just making their stuff useful at all may have cut off the teens at the knees from the very beginning.

This only appears to work because Facebook lets it appear to work.

On preview: yeah exactly this. While I have no insider information, allowing the "cheater" falsely believe their tricks are working is as old as cheating.
posted by sideshow at 9:20 AM on February 11 [8 favorites]


Back in my day we called it Culture Jamming. Proud to see it's still going on, and is even more sophisticated.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:22 AM on February 11 [13 favorites]


Facebook's surveillance is so advanced that they know, don't care, and are more interested in using the data to discover and exploit the underlying trust networks linking the users of these accounts

Anything to make it look like they have more daily active users is better. There's plenty of data to know who did what from every device used at any point in time. Kinda why I expect Netflix considers you to have watched a show if you kept it on for two minutes.
posted by tilde at 9:23 AM on February 11


"Password resets don't end Instagram sessions,..."

WTAF (screaming) AYFKM (insane laughter) GENIUSES
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:24 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


If you've got Facebook or Whatsapp installed on the same device, it's trivial to figure out who you really are and connect it back to your real accounts.

Time for a next-level hack: desktop computers.
posted by Jpfed at 9:24 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


I mean, I know that user security means nothing at all to FB but this is just the drunken groom on the cake.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:25 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


If you're the kind of person who tries to confuse ad-targeting algorithms, that's all useful information for the purposes of targeting ads at you. (You might see more ads for tinfoil or Guy Fawkes masks or anti-capitalism merch or something.)
posted by acb at 9:34 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


"It's an identity people can follow, but we didn't want it to be our true identity that people can find in real life,"

"I like knowing that if someone were to find my account, they're not going to be able to track my movement and know, 'she goes to this high school, these hours, she works here, and she's into these different things,'" Mosley said.

On closer reading, the quotes from Samantha Mosley all actually seem to imply that she at least has adopted this tactic to obscure her identity from other people who can see her account in real life, not to confuse "the algorithm". That might actually work.
posted by DSime at 9:35 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Good job, kids.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:41 AM on February 11


Instagram is a game in which the only way to win is not to play.

Of course, not using Instagram means that no other living soul will ever look at any photo you take. Sure, you can post them to your own website like it's 1997, but nobody will make the time to open a browser window and look at them. You can make a helpful RSS feed of your photos (which is more than the Instagram silo has), but user-facing RSS is not a thing which exists anymore. You can post them to Flickr, in which case only the handful of whitebeards with DSLRs who still keep paying their $59.95 a year will be the audience. You can post them to an ActivityPub network like Pixelfed or Mastodon, but then your audience is by definition limited to performatively Trotskyist otherkin SubGenius breatharians and other weirdos who use ActivityPub.

Unless, of course, your photos are of cats, in which case there are a dozen or so Reddits that will upvote the hell out of them.
posted by acb at 9:43 AM on February 11 [26 favorites]


But yes, those teens should up their tradecraft, get a handful of cheap burner phones (low-end Chinese Androids preloaded with PLA spyware, or superannuated iPhone 5s, or even some iPod Touches) and physically swap handsets like a baton at a relay race.
posted by acb at 9:45 AM on February 11 [8 favorites]


It's kind of a dirty little secret that this sort of situation exists on a whole lot of web apps. There is a common way of authenticating requests that involves the server issuing you a token that has an expiration date associated with it. Apps without traditionally high levels of security like financial stuff will often set that expiry date far in the future. Every request you make gets tagged with the request and that is the key that unlocks your access. The wrinkle comes in when you have a lot of users logged in at once or a lot of login/logout churn in general. You can assume Facebook has more of this than almost anyone. It may not be practical at this large scale to manage these tokens in such a way that you can actually revoke them prior to their expiration. If you do this, you have to support a whole infrastructure for it. What's happening here is for whatever reason, their system does not expire old tokens when new ones are created. This may be a deliberate performance/cost related decision or it may be a simple oversight, it's impossible to tell without insider info.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:46 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


This sounds like a lot of work to post photos of my cats; I'll just cope with Facebook knowing where we live and what other cats we are insta-friends with.
posted by ktkt at 9:46 AM on February 11


So those meddling kids are getting away with it?!
posted by chavenet at 9:49 AM on February 11


Unless you are changing your browser, your extensions, your device, its OS, and a host of other small bits of metadata... I am in your record, separating out users and user behavior from IDs.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:18 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


So easy to backfill this from logs. All these kids' activities will be parsed out and tied to their real FB accounts. Or their FB shadow profile, if they don't have one.
posted by cape at 10:19 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I've wondered if a solution to the online advertising+privacy mess could be some kind of collectivizing on users' parts--choose a "club" of like-minded users to join, give advertisers access only to aggregate/summary data from the group, everyone sees ads targeted to the group's collective preferences rather than to the individual. Maybe with some kind of group buying/incentive stuff mixed in (like groupon or massdrop). Kind of like a halfway point between pre-internet "targeting" (selecting publications for ads to go to) and what we have today. Anyway this account-sharing thing reminds me of that idea.
posted by rivenwanderer at 10:22 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: limited to performatively Trotskyist otherkin SubGenius breatharians and other weirdos who use ActivityPub
posted by philip-random at 10:58 AM on February 11 [14 favorites]


Do you think facebook really cares about the accuracy of their data?

They only care that they can sell it.

Hell the big Silicon Valley tech companies have been pretty openly running full on ad click/impression fraud scams potentially defrauding both ends of the transactions they middle man since the very beginning. And nobody in the transaction cares. It's kind of amazing really.
posted by srboisvert at 11:39 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


IB4: The Kids Are All Right.

One kid, possibly 5 in Maryland. For every kid who cares about being tracked by Instagram, there are thousands and thousands who not only do not care, but are slightly baffled (yet pleased) that the app shows them so much of what they like. Finstas are for parents and friends you don't actually like, not for the algorithm.

Tbh, I've become more concerned with how much kids are being tracked (schools have basically signed away student souls w/ G Suite and chromebooks) and how trusting they are when it comes to corporations and brands (she said, echo show in her shopping cart).
posted by betweenthebars at 11:44 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


Of course, not using Instagram means that no other living soul will ever look at any photo you take

This...seems like a feature, not a bug?
posted by the_blizz at 1:40 PM on February 11


If that's a feature, why bother uploading them anywhere? And if not, why take photos in the first place? On the off-chance that you corner someone at a party who takes an interest and then whip out your iPad and show them the Antarctic sunset or whatever you took? Or just to end up with a pile of 100,000 photos on a hard drive that will end up in the e-waste collection after you die?

I don't want a bar of millennial influencer culture, but I would like it if I could post my photos where my friends could see them, and vice versa, without having video ads forced down my throat or having to contend with a Skinner-box algorithmic timeline that keeps me reloading in case I missed a friend's update. A simple chronological feed aggregated from my friends' photos would do the job. I believe our civilisation used to have this technology, but somehow lost it when adtech took over the internet.
posted by acb at 1:51 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


And if not, why take photos in the first place?

That the vast majority of personal photography has been just taking snapshots for one's own pleasure and maybe that of those intimate enough with you to show the photos in person or send them without expectation or need broader public consumption I don't think is that far gone that it could be completely forgotten.

That such a technology exists and people choose to use it, is of course fine for those who enjoy such things, but I don't think it quite reaches the level of necessary good that requires public funding and absent that someone's gonna pay for the service somehow. That's part of the great trade off we've made in the "impossible to live without" internet age.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:03 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


And I might add I'd have no reason to trust whoever would be in charge of a publicly funded system anymore than I would a private one, given how greedily governments are about sucking up all available personal data for their own endss.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:08 PM on February 11


As an old, back in the day no one saw your pictures unless you physically showed them and you never just took random photos of food or yourself remodeling a bathroom or at some sports thing. And it was fine. My feeling of social connectedness has not really improved just because I see 100000 pictures of people’s cats. I mean, it’s fine, but if it all went away tomorrow I wouldn’t give a shit. I worry that my kids would be bereft if they had to just do things that no one else might ever know about.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:46 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


As an old, back in the day no one saw your pictures unless you physically showed them and you never just took random photos of food or yourself remodeling a bathroom or at some sports thing.

Once again Monty Python had this covered.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:08 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Once again Monty Python had this covered.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 7:08 PM on February 11


When you started with 'Monty Python had this covered' and the topic of personally identifiable information and selling your data was being discussed about social media sites - I figured you would pick a different skit.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:28 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


I suspect that FB can and does isolate individual users from such accounts especially if they're on individual devices. Probably automatically.

You don't need a user ID when you've got 10's or 100's of user-session dimensions that can be combined to create unique identifiers.

Nevertheless, I fully support these teens and am just relieved that they're concerned about privacy at all.
posted by alrightokay at 9:42 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


you never just took random photos of food or yourself remodeling a bathroom or at some sports thing.

Speak for yourself. It was harder, more expensive and everybody thought only a weirdo1 would carry a camera everywhere they went but it happened. I'll give you the rarely would anyone else see the output.

[1] mean but probably true
posted by Mitheral at 1:04 PM on February 13


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