@Instagram, I Request a New Feature, Will You Listen..?

Dear Instagram,

Line of Deyan's friends on InstagramI really like your product, and Instagram is my preferred way of sharing pictures with people who have chosen to follow me on their mobile smart phone. I love your filters, I love the way I can follow what my friends are up to, leave comments and like their pictures real easily!

However, with you rolling out the public web profiles, I would like to make a feature request; Can you please build in a way I can protect certain pictures from the public eye. I simply don't want to share all my pictures with the whole world! More specific, I have made a conscious decision not to publish any photo's of my kids online. At first, I was ok with sharing pictures of my kids on your service as these were only seen by people who follow me on a mobile phone. But with the easy copy paste online on the web, I'm about to rethink how I will use Instagram. Let me explain...

Identity Stealing Made Easy

Hipster Dennis picture on InstagramBack in 2006, just after my daughter was born, I set up a blog for us to post pictures and stories for my family back in The Netherlands to follow how she would grow up as a little girl. I was able to capture a great domain for her, as her name is really special: Bo-Jools.com. Now we only post her art work here, as the story takes an ugly turn.

After a couple of months, posting a lot of stories about our adventures in San Francisco with a new born; my wife was contacted by a woman in The Netherlands with a strange story. She had been communicating with a mother of a little girl for 6 months, who had built up a profile on a baby site.

Long story short, the woman had used our baby pictures stolen from our daughters weblog to fabricate an online fake profile of a woman with a young baby girl, who was suffering from an early stage of cancer. The story was about hospital visits, fear of loosing her baby, and steep hospital bills. It would make every mother sad to read the full life story of a 6 month old baby, and feel nothing but empathy for the young mother, all alone with a sick baby.

We filed a complaint with the Dutch police, where I was very lucky I had direct connections with their special Internet Crime department through the legal team of Marktplaats, eBay's Dutch Classifieds site. In the end, we were able to get the police team taking up the case due to the fact the baby profile site offered the ability to sell pictures through the site, which made it an official "crime". The initial thoughts of the specialist was that we could not prosecute as there was "no crime committed".

The police did a search on the address of the IP the profile was managed out off. It appeared there was an under age girl behind the profile, who got carried away with her imagination after researching the baby profile site for a school project. Thank god it was not a worse outcome, where our minds were thinking about fake money scams or even worse.

Lesson Learned

Nice machine I like to try picture on InstagramWe learned a valuable lesson online. Pictures of our family, our kids or maybe even of myself should not always be posted publicly, as these can be copied, stolen and used by anybody with good, bad or mal intentions.

As our kids are still little, they have not given permission to us to post their picture online, so we removed all their pictures from websites and public profiles. We get many times suggestions we  should have our kids model for advertisements. But we don't want to, as they should make up their own mind if they would like to do that. Maybe when they are older...

Even on networks like Facebook, we are extremely careful about privacy settings, and who would be able to see the pictures. And still then, we are not posting all of our family pictures there, as you never know how Facebook will change their privacy settings, or make changes to their Terms & conditions you have opted in to. It would not be the first time...

Instagram Public Profiles

Which brings me to Instagram sharing, mobile smart phones & Public Profiles.

Censored Instagram Profile

At first I started using Instagram to share funny pictures using the filters. But as more people joined, and started to connect with me at the service, it became a new way to share moments of joy with the people I like, but not online where all people can see and copy my stuff. Off course I knew that every picture on my Instagram feed could be accessed online, but it was way harder to find and copy/paste these pictures than somewhere else. I did had a feeling I could share some of the pictures of my kids with my Instagram followers, but I was wrong!

With Instagram Public Profiles (mine here), you can see all my pictures from my Instagram feed, up to the early ones. Fun stuff, as I can see 2 year old pictures from my kids, but so can anybody else. And what is more, Instagram does not give you the ability to shield off certain pictures from the public eye. You only have the ability to hide your full stream from the public. It's either all or nothing!

Individual Picture Control

Guinness time picture on InstagramWhich is why I ask you Instagram, build a new feature which would allow me to set the permissions on each and every picture I push into my stream. A simple setting when you take the picture will do. Something like: Share with the world or only on Instagram mobile stream (not on public profile). I believe Facebook has done an awesome job in this, so with the sale of Instagram to Facebook, you should have access to that snippet of code, which would make it extremely easy to adopt the feature!

No Choice

Otherwise, you leave me no choice. I will either;

  • Delete the pictures of my kids and have a boring stream of photo's of everyday live scenes or marketing ideas
  • Set my stream to private, and limit my own ability to use Instagram how I have been in the past 2 years

I'm looking forward to see how you evolve and grow up Instagram. I really love your service, and would hate to abandon you!