Instagram Suffers Data Leak – 49 Million Records Exposed

Instagram has suffered another data leak. This time, 49 million records have been exposed. Conflicting reports question whether the information is public or not.

Instagram is once again in the news for yet another data leak. Last month, both Facebook and Instagram suffered a data leak which saw a half a billion users exposed. While not much information is available on the Instagram part of the leak, it appears this one is a new one.

NakedSecurity is documenting the leak, saying that the initial reports stated that contact information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses were exposed. The database came from a company known as Chatrbox.

Chatrbox, for its part, denied the severity of the leak. They argued that informatino about a couple of so-called “influencers” were exposed for a period of 72 hours. They further argued that the information contained in the leak were already public information. That, of course, runs contrary to the other reports that pointed out that phone numbers and e-mail addresses were also exposed. This, of course, leads to fears of “cyberstalkers” potentially using this information. Here’s some analysis from the NakedSecurity report:

How might someone compile a massive database of Instagram information?

The company wouldn’t answer any more questions, so it’s difficult to know for sure. User names, profile shots, and follower numbers are publicly available and could be gathered by screen scraping. Screen scrapers use automated scripts to visit websites and copy the information they find there.

Companies use scraped data for all kinds of purposes, such as price comparisons and sentiment analysis. It’s considered malicious and many publishers try to block it because the scrapers are using their proprietary data and also draining their server resources.

We’ve seen people scraping Instagram before. Redditors attempted to archive every image from the site that they could, for kicks.

But it can get you into trouble. Authorities in Nova Scotia, Canada arrested a 19-year-old for scraping around 7,000 freedom-of-information releases from a public web site there, calling him a hacker. They subsequently dropped the charges.

So, there’s definitely some conflicting reports on what is in the leak and its severity. There is even some questions on the legality of acquiring such data in the first place.

At any event, there is yet another privacy mess affecting the social media platform. So much for Instagram being a more private variation of Facebook.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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