How Crossposting From Instagram to Facebook Could Impact Your Privacy

Facebook feature or Insta-oops?

Key Takeaways

  • You can now send Instagram stories straight to Facebook stories as part of a test feature.
  • Experts warn that it could be difficult for unsophisticated users to know where their content will end up.
  • Because people use Facebook and Instagram for different parts of their lives, the ability to crosspost could lead to some sticky situations, one observer says.
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Facebook is testing the capability to send Instagram stories straight to Facebook stories as part of the company’s efforts to bring its various platforms together. The new feature is raising privacy concerns.

The lines between Facebook’s services continue to blur. Facebook and Instagram chat are merging; Oculus users now must login with their Facebook accounts to play in VR. These moves come at a time when Facebook and other tech giants are under increased scrutiny for alleged privacy violations and other issues. With such disparate services coming together, some less savvy folks might get confused.

People should tread a little bit lightly when they start crossposting.

"It’s going to be difficult for users to know and to cross-check what the privacy settings are," Scott J. Shackelford, a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington who studies internet governance, said in a phone interview. "You will need to know what the sharing defaults are like, and unless you do a fair amount of digging you won’t know the answer to that. It will be confusing to a lot of users."

How It Will All Work

Instagram followers can link their account to Facebook by enabling a setting, according to a report. Followers will be able to view an Instagram story on Facebook, but Facebook users who aren’t followers on Instagram won’t see that story. Facebook stories will have blue circles on their profile photo and Instagram will have pink circles.

In app notifications explaining Facebook and Instagram crossposting
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Because people use Facebook and Instagram for different parts of their lives, the ability to crosspost could lead to some sticky situations, said Professor Jonathan Askin of Brooklyn Law School in a phone interview.

"Users think it will be useful, but you might have different personas for different services," he added. "For example, you might use Facebook for personal posts and Instagram for business. When you automatically crosspost, the danger is that the wrong information might end up in the wrong place."

Past Privacy Violations Haunt Facebook

In April, a federal judge approved a record $5 billion fine imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Facebook for allegedly violating federal law and an order about its privacy practices. The case stemmed from the 2018 revelation that Cambridge Analytica had collected data from millions of Facebook users without their knowledge to use for political ads.

"The unscrupulous way in which the United States alleges Facebook violated both the law and the administrative order is stunning," US District Judge Timothy Kelly of the District of Columbia wrote in an opinion. "And these allegations, and the briefs of some amici, call into question the adequacy of laws governing how technology companies that collect and monetize Americans’ personal information must treat that information."

Feature or Strategy?

Adding the ability to crosspost could be a strategy by Facebook to keep regulators from prying the company apart under rules against monopolies, Shackelford said. "By doing this, Facebook could make it technically and administratively just a nightmare to unwind these steps," he added. "One way Facebook could fight back against regulators is by knitting its different parts as tightly together as possible." 

Facebook’s goal is to make its services “as sticky as possible,” so users are drawn into the ecosystem, Askin said. "They want it to be as complete a one-stop-shop as possible," he added. "If they can get away with more monopoly control it becomes that much more difficult for users to extricate themselves."

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A Facebook spokesperson reportedly confirmed the company is conducting a “limited test,” claiming the feature "respects all existing privacy settings" and Instagram users have the option to keep their stories off of Facebook altogether if they wish.

But Askin warned that privacy settings aren’t always easy to use. "Facebook has a lot of bells and whistles and we need to make sure people know how to use them," he added. "Facebook might say it respects privacy settings, and that’s all well and good if you are tech-savvy, but it becomes more problematic for the non-tech-savvy."

Askin said he wants to know more about the details of crossposting, which the company has yet to give. "For example, what happens in the circumstance when you want to delete an image?" he said. "People should tread a little bit lightly when they start crossposting."

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