Social media monitoring programs need to be adaptable and open to other open-source data options. As Instagram adjusts its API access, the access to that data is being restricted.
This is also in light of the recent Twitter crackdown on use of its data in law enforcement and government. Since Twitter appears to have enhanced enforcement for its Terms of Service violations on the use of tweets within certain cases, it becomes increasingly difficult for companies that want to monitor social media data.
This is well within Twitter, Instagram and any social media channel’s rights since they own both the data and platform. It also makes good business sense; if people know their social media content may be used against them — even though they are public — they may be less likely to use the platform or switch to a more private platform.
Restrictions on Data
Instagram has recently been cracking down on what they consider violations of their Terms of Service. Twitter has been getting the press, but Instagram has been locking API keys, restricting access to data, and sending emails reminding clients about potential Terms of Service infractions. For those who aren’t familiar with API access, an API is what allows you to interact with a platform’s data.
The Instagram Terms of Service is quite restrictive — more restrictive than other social media platforms. We’ve noticed four significant ways in which Instagram makes data more difficult to use for industry practitioners.
1. Rigorous process to gain API access
The first barrier to entry is simply accessing the API. While most platforms allow you to create an API key, Instagram only gives instant access to their limited “sandbox” environment. To get full access to Instagram’s API (which is required to get any data external to your immediate feed), you must fill out a form, create a video demonstrating your use case, and then wait for approval, which is not guaranteed.
2. Only marketing and advertising sectors supported
There are additional restrictions governing who can use their API. Instagram allows API access only for marketing or advertising use cases (translation: making money for Instagram) and completely oppose anyone mining its data or monitoring users.
3. Data quality not as rich as other platforms
Another major restriction is the quality of available data. For example, you cannot search for a keyword, only for a hashtag. This limits the ability for threat discovery through text.
4. Geo-location data access gradually stripped away
Instagram recently removed their photo maps view from their mobile application. While Instagram maintains this feature was not popular, and that the API would not be effected by this change, this may be the first move to remove even more geo-location information from open-source access.
Deciding with Open-Source Data
At BrightPlanet, we did some early development around the Instagram API but found it far too restrictive. Everything we wanted to do violated Instagram’s restrictive Terms of Service.
We suspect we’ll see further crackdowns within this platform, similar to what we have seen with Facebook and Twitter. Data rich social media platforms are ripe for law enforcement, insurance companies, and marketing shops to mine useful information, but the gradual locking down of user data could bring third-party applications reliant on social content to an abrupt end without a diversified open-source data portfolio.