I left Instagram. Here's why.

- 3 mins

I left cos Instagram turned on my camera multiple times while I was scrolling through the timeline. This happened during the morning of October 30. The only way I could catch this was cos the recently released Android 12 on the Pixel 5 has an indicator when an up is accessing you camera or your microphone — I was on the beta release at this time. I chance-saw this blink on twice while scrolling Instagram’s timeline. I then checked the Privacy Dashboard — another feature in this new release — and I saw Instagram accessed the camera momentarily a couple of times. These are the facts.

Now, the inferences. I couldn’t help but wonder why the camera should turn on when I didn’t explicitly ask that from the app. I couldn’t help but think Instagram takes photos of people scrolling timeline. This suspicion fed into the myth for ads placement. That feeling that Instagram listens. Often exacerbated with ads popping up in timeline when you talk about something with your friends in the presence of your phone — just to site one scenario. These are my inferences.

The justification and my resignation shows how much of a bind Instagram and its users are in concerning privacy. Before we start using the service, we agree to terms and conditions we most times don’t read. And why not? When the sell is to connect with friends and family, that’s an emotional tug. Logic slips into the cognitive blindspot at that point. This is where the magic happens. The Terms and Conditions force users into agreeing to making a logical decision which fixes an emotional need. In those terms — I presume, cos I still have not read them — there could be something which allows Instagram to use and publish visual content captured from the phone’s camera. Basic legal covering of the bases. This would allow the service capture photos and share them on the network. A corollary to this is the permissions requested from the app on the phone’s OS. Once this is granted, pictures can be captured. This is the ideal service. However, to every face that shows a coin’s value, there’s an under-face often hidden; and every beautiful snake skin would have an underbelly which plays in the mud. The other side of this ideal service is: once these terms are signed and the permissions are granted, there’s no further way to restrict the service. Privacy is thus a game lost before it’s started.

My resignation is here. It’s in the truth that I’ve always known this. Being an engineer myself, I’m aware of the power people freely give up in blind trust that all tech is ethical. But to see it happen to me, to see the myth confirmed, …that just blew my mind into irrecoverable bits. I know many people need Instagram. Heck, it’s like the Spice in Dune — if you’ve read the book. “Once you have gotten a taste of it, to remove yourself from it is to die.” And yes, leaving Instagram is a death of sorts; a social death. Focusing on the death bits colours this dark and sad. However, all deaths are births unknown. So I’m curious and excited to see where this new birth leads.

It’s the end of me and Facebook’s family of apps; except WhatsApp.

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