Mobile, Social Media

Instagram’s Screenshot Notifications Are a Key Privacy Tool

Instagram has made it clear users will get a notification when someone screenshots a message that was sent to them. That sounds like a small feature but it’s an important privacy update that’s been introduced.

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Screenshots have long been a way for people to get around the limitations of apps like Snapchat and Instagram that don’t allow for native sharing and which don’t create a permanent archive of updates like Facebook and Twitter or Instagram’s core network feed. So someone might screengrab a picture someone sent of a party they’re at so they can keep it or share it themselves. The problem is that as messaging apps and the messaging tools within other apps (a la Twitter DMs, Instagram Stories) are increasingly used in lieu of other communication tools, those apps are being used for personal messages. I’m not necessarily calling out sexting or anything like that but certainly private communications are happening that not everyone wants getting out to the broader audience.

By alerting someone that the recipient has captured a screengrab of their message, they at least have the information they need to decide whether or not to protest. They can contact the recipient and ask what they plan to do with that screengrab or complain that the message was set in confidence, not for broader dissemination. That may not be enough to completely stifle the kind of cyber-bullying and shaming that is all too common, especially among the teens who account for a huge percentage of these tools’ usage, but it’s a step in the right direction. Senders at least have more information as to when and by whom their privacy is about to be violated.

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