Does Instagram know more about you than your mum and dad? Watch

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University of Huddersfield Guest Lecturer
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Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter collect a significant amount of data about you on a daily basis. Pictures, comments, friends’ networks, your location and the videos you take are being collected on a daily basis. This data is powerful and has value, with some news sources claiming that it is worth $240 a year per individual. Some organisations like Facebook will go as far as paying you for exclusive and direct access to your phone and all the data you store on there. This wealth of information is used by companies to understand who you are, how you think, who you vote for, who you engage with etc. So really my question is “Do companies such as Instagram know more about you than your mum and dad”?

One answer would be a definitive ‘Yes’ – lets take one small example:

Instagram through their advanced algorithms have a clear understanding of your friends’ network, and through your interactions and likes can start to ‘shuffle’ these into how valuable they are to you. They know a good deal about your relationship status, know your work colleagues intimately and have a good idea of the types of places you like to eat and your music tastes. When all this data is collected and organised it makes for a very powerful tool in understanding your lifestyle and mindset, which makes it all the better for selling products to you. However, In the wrong hands this information can be used in a variety of unethical ways, for example the case of Cambridge Analytica asked serious questions of Facebook but also called into question the integrity of the electoral system both in the UK and the USA.

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Are companies becoming far too powerful?


My name is Abdul Jabbar and I am a Senior Lecturer in Business Data Analytics at the University of Huddersfield. My research focus is on Big Data analytics, Social Media Influence and the Internet of things. At the moment I am looking at how social media platforms collect significant amounts of data about millions of people to influence the decisions we make.
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shadowdweller
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It ultimately depends on whether you're going for an answer that is objective, or one that is on an individual basis. Objectively, Instagram, and indeed social media in general, certainly doesn't know more about people than their own parents, given that it depends how much you post, how safety conscious you are and indeed, how much you talk to your parents.

On an individual basis yes, it probably does know some people better than their own parents, but again, it depends how you use it in terms of how much of an issue that poses and how powerful it is in influencing your decisions.
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Decahedron
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The data held by companies is fundamentally different to what the "data" that your parents hold on you. Sure the companies know your browsing habits etc but your parents will hold much more personal data about your life offline.

I find it a very strange thing to compare and incredibly difficult to quantify when it comes to personal data of this nature.

If anything Google holds more data about me than any other company on earth, it knows where I work, live, the route I take to work, my average walking speed, it holds my personal emails, my search history and obviously browsing habits across a range of sites and platforms. It probably even holds data about my health.

I don't believe there is anyway around companies holding such vast amounts of personal data if you want to function in modern society, it is par of the course. What we must do as individuals is ensure this data is used appropriately to benefit us the public. GDPR is a good start to giving us back control of our data but more can be done to ensure data is not used to our detriment.
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Retired_Messiah
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My facebook targetting ads are always abysmally wrong so I'm going to go for nooo. Granted this might have something to do with the fact that facebook believes that I currently live in Vietnam. I changed it when I was 12 and can't find a way to change it back.

Google tends to be a bit more on the nose with its targetted ads. A bit. I get banner ads for "muslim singles" on youtube sometimes which is slightly odd but I can at least see where it gets that from.
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(Original post by shadowdweller)
It ultimately depends on whether you're going for an answer that is objective, or one that is on an individual basis. Objectively, Instagram, and indeed social media in general, certainly doesn't know more about people than their own parents, given that it depends how much you post, how safety conscious you are and indeed, how much you talk to your parents.

On an individual basis yes, it probably does know some people better than their own parents, but again, it depends how you use it in terms of how much of an issue that poses and how powerful it is in influencing your decisions.
I think this is a very valid point. There is an argument that Instagram and the army of tools/applications/filters alongside information from facebook and where appropriate whatsapp provide instagram with a clearer understanding of your behaviour as a consumer and as a voter than maybe your parents?
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(Original post by Decahedron)
The data held by companies is fundamentally different to what the "data" that your parents hold on you. Sure the companies know your browsing habits etc but yor parents will hold much more personal data about your life offline.

I find it a very strange thing to compare and incredibly difficult to quantify when it comes to personal data of this nature.

If anything Google holds more data about me than any other company on earth, it knows where I work, live, the route I take to work, my average walking speed, it holds my personal emails, my search history and obviously browsing habits across a range of sites and platforms. It probably even holds data about my health.

I don't believe there is anyway around companies holding such vast amounts of personal data if you want to function in modern society, it is par of the course. What we must do as individuals is ensure this data is used appropriately to benefit us the public. GDPR is a good start to giving us back control of our data but more can be done to ensure data is not used to our detriment.
You bring up a very big point about ethics here. Recent news bulletins suggest that companies like Instagram and facebook are still struggling to comply with GDPR rules, with google allready having received a 50m Euro fine (https://www.siliconrepublic.com/ente...pr-fine-google). The bigger question in the long run is the value of data privacy, behaviour of users does suggest that even though facebook and to a lesser extent instagram have been implicated in multiple scandals via cambridge analytica etc, the impact on facebook and its user stats is not too damaging in the long run. All very scary stuff and shows that data really is the new oil!
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shadowdweller
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(Original post by University of Huddersfield Guest Lecturer)
I think this is a very valid point. There is an argument that Instagram and the army of tools/applications/filters alongside information from facebook and where appropriate whatsapp provide instagram with a clearer understanding of your behaviour as a consumer and as a voter than maybe your parents?
Hmm, honestly again I think this is very dependant on the individual - I rarely post on policital topics on Facebook, for instance, but I’ve talked a lot more with my parents about it!
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All Facebook knows about me is that I like posting guinea pig and BPD memes
Instagram knows nothing since I don't have it although my father is as absent and useless as they come so it wouldn't be hard to know more than him about me
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(Original post by Retired_Messiah)
My facebook targetting ads are always abysmally wrong so I'm going to go for nooo. Granted this might have something to do with the fact that facebook believes that I currently live in Vietnam. I changed it when I was 12 and can't find a way to change it back.

Google tends to be a bit more on the nose with its targetted ads. A bit. I get banner ads for "muslim singles" on youtube sometimes which is slightly odd but I can at least see where it gets that from.
This did make me lol. The next arms race in targeting will definitely revolve around those companies who have the better targeting algorithms and data collection points. Facebooks acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp shows it is a serious player and is not going anywhere soon. When these different data collection points start to converge the use of analytics for targeting is a Realtime phenomenon.


Both google and Facebook currently occupy different spaces, one in search and one in social. Long term success will be which organisation can merge these two distinct opportunities together. Also, we can’t really discount Apple and Amazon from these conversations, the tech they develop and bring forward is having a significant impact on our daily lives. For instance, the amazon echo is continually collecting information about users in their own home, maybe the echo knows more about us than our mums and dads?
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(Original post by Retired_Messiah)
My facebook targetting ads are always abysmally wrong so I'm going to go for nooo. Granted this might have something to do with the fact that facebook believes that I currently live in Vietnam. I changed it when I was 12 and can't find a way to change it back.

Google tends to be a bit more on the nose with its targetted ads. A bit. I get banner ads for "muslim singles" on youtube sometimes which is slightly odd but I can at least see where it gets that from.
I keep getting erectile dysfunction ads on here which I'm not impressed with :nothing:
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
All Facebook knows about me is that I like posting guinea pig and BPD memes
Instagram knows nothing since I don't have it although my father is as absent and useless as they come so it wouldn't be hard to know more than him about me
Who does not love guinea pigs?
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Retired_Messiah
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(Original post by CoolCavy)
I keep getting erectile dysfunction ads on here which I'm not impressed with :nothing:
well tbf that's not technically incorrect, right?

(Original post by University of Huddersfield Guest Lecturer)
This did make me lol. The next arms race in targeting will definitely revolve around those companies who have the better targeting algorithms and data collection points. Facebooks acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp shows it is a serious player and is not going anywhere soon. When these different data collection points start to converge the use of analytics for targeting is a Realtime phenomenon.


Both google and Facebook currently occupy different spaces, one in search and one in social. Long term success will be which organisation can merge these two distinct opportunities together. Also, we can’t really discount Apple and Amazon from these conversations, the tech they develop and bring forward is having a significant impact on our daily lives. For instance, the amazon echo is continually collecting information about users in their own home, maybe the echo knows more about us than our mums and dads?
I don't use instagram or whatsapp so facebook is probably always going to be bad at sorting me out unless I bother to engage with content other than obscure surreal meme pages.

I'd be interested to see if my amazon recommended products got any better after using an Amazon echo. Currently in my echo-less life it's been recommending me milton sterilisation fluid for months now when I bought it once back in october with no intention of ever buying it again.
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Royal Oak
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I don't even have facebook or instagram and I'm sure they know a lot more about me than my parents.
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(Original post by Retired_Messiah)
well tbf that's not technically incorrect, right?


I don't use instagram or whatsapp so facebook is probably always going to be bad at sorting me out unless I bother to engage with content other than obscure surreal meme pages.

I'd be interested to see if my amazon recommended products got any better after using an Amazon echo. Currently in my echo-less life it's been recommending me milton sterilisation fluid for months now when I bought it once back in October with no intention of ever buying it again.
Interesting you bring up Amazon, they have millions of data points and one of the highest conversion rates in the industry. With all things analytical, the key aspect is your level of engagement with the service. This is for many companies the value aspect. I propose and this is more of an educated guess, that as "home assistants" and the "Internet of things" become more popular, companies will understand us as individuals much better.
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(Original post by Royal Oak)
I don't even have facebook or instagram and I'm sure they know a lot more about me than my parents.
There is a good point here, many companies collect data about us secretly in the background, in many many scenarios without our knowledge. GDPR and other legislation are designed to protect us from this, but in the long term it will be interesting to see if this has any impact.
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Moderate
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Don’t use social media
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Don’t use social media
Sage advice . Easier said than done, me personally I try to keep my Social Media usage to an absolute minimum and I still have twitter, FB and Instagram. People are so reliant on these tools from multiple perspectives, not sure if thats the fault of the tools or a reflection on society as a whole!
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She-Ra
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I LOVE Instagram.... but how they mess around with the algorithms really frustrates me. I've been "shuffled" and it drives me nuts! All of a sudden I stop seeing the posts I really want to see. For me, it's a community building tool, so it's very important that posts from people I follow are visible to me.

Facebook and Instagram do know a lot about me, but from an information point of view this is generally pretty helpful. I also have no problem with saying I don't want to see certain ads any more. Amazon often recommends me books that I don't know I want and then when I see them I WANT ALL OF THEM! My bookshelf can't take much more.... it's the same with Netflix.... the more we watch the more intuitive it becomes. There is essentially no privacy anymore is there? But in a way it makes life a little easier.

The only thing I think is a huge issue is the echo chamber mentality Facebook creates.

i.e voting remain in the EU referendum, I was clearly always going to vote this way and that would have been clear (based on the news I clicked on FB) - so all I saw was remain content and leave content that made "leave voters" look a certain way. When the outcome was announced every post I saw on FB was "I don't get it, everyone on here voted the same way as me so how did this happen"? Well, if all those on the fence/ wanting to leave see only pro-leave content, over time this is potentially going to strongly influence their voting behaviour?

So with that example in mind it does worry me... because people don't have to pick up a newspaper anymore or even watch the news.... a new wave of "propaganda" is essentially being streamed to them and we don't know what this is or where it's coming from? And are they even conscious that this is what is happening? This is powerful stuff and ultimately it freaks me out and in the wrong hands could be very dangerous.
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Paracosm
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I think that social media is one of the most amazing, yet contradictory, things online these days. To the public, it's a way to connect with your friends and family, to view current news and trends and remain informed. To businesses, it's an influencing tool where you can connect likeminded people and use advanced marketing algorithms to target your products or services to them. To social networks, it's a massive data mining tool that creates billions of dollars worth of income, with an immeasurable amount of harvestable data which they can use to further themselves and generate tools which the public would eventually depend on, creating a market in which the users of said social networks are locked in without escape.

For example, creating a culture where you can only sign up to events on Facebook, follow a Twitter handle for updates on a story you're following or only speak to certain distant family members via Facebook because picking up the phone and calling them is too expensive. All people do this without Facebook or other social networks ever telling them to, it's just intrinsic to people now. We're all locked in, no matter who we are. Big data culture only worsens over time and essentially all we are to bigger companies is interesting data points in some big spreadsheet/database export somewhere. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are no longer simply social tools, for a lot of people they're an essential service which they depend heavily on. Pretty sobering to think about.

Social media serves a useful purpose and an even more useful purpose to those that own them. The question is, how can we be sure the data entrusted to these companies is used ethically and when you hand over your data so willingly, do you have the right to be so precious about it in the first place? :dontknow:
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Decahedron
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(Original post by University of Huddersfield Guest Lecturer)
You bring up a very big point about ethics here. Recent news bulletins suggest that companies like Instagram and facebook are still struggling to comply with GDPR rules, with google allready having receiving a 50m Euro fine (https://www.siliconrepublic.com/ente...pr-fine-google). The bigger question in the long run is the value of data privacy, behaviour of uses does suggest that even though facebook and to a lesser extent instagram have been impliacted in multiple scandals via cambridge analytica, the impact on facebook and its user stats is not to damaging in the long run. All very scary stuff and shows that data really is the new oil!
We should never leave companies to be ethical without some form of regulation, because at the end of the day they exist to make a profit and if you leave them to their own devices they will not be ethical by choice. Many companies big and small are struggling to comply with GDPR whether knowingly or not, it is a very complex piece of legislation which will take years to fully implement.

As the saying goes; "If you are not paying for the product, you are the product". It holds true today with your data being the asset of many companies, we truly are living in the Data Age.
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