We are glad Instagram is continuing to take action against stalking apps. This time around, they have cracked down on an app called Ghosty, which allowed its users access to private profiles of Instagram users. The Ghosty app was available on Google Play Store for Android phones and has now been taken down. This is the second app in the past few days to have faced the wrath of Instagram. A few days ago, an app called Like Patrol was taken down from the Apple App Store after Instagram sent a cease and desist notice to its developers. The Facebook-owned social network intends to do the same with Ghosty as well. At the time of writing this, the Ghosty app is no longer available on the Play Store, though how Instagram plans to block access of the 500000 users who had already downloaded it since it went live earlier this year, is not yet clear.
Ghosty stalkware really makes Like Patrol seem modest. Ghosty allowed its users access to profiles of Instagram users that may otherwise be locked to users who don’t follow them on the network. Ghosty was available in two avatars—an ad-supported free version and a premium version. A lot of Instagram users lock their profile, require explicit approval to accept new friend requests and those who don’t follow them cannot see their posts, comments and likes. Clearly, that is a violation of Instagram’s policies, and a massive data privacy issue.
This comes after Instagram exercised their legal options against the Like Patrol app. Like Patrol, which calls itself an Instagram Activity Insights app allowed users to follow every single activity of any other user they wanted to keep a track of, including who they liked or followed. “New guy? New girl? What are they up to on Instagram? With Like Patrol you can see the posts they specifically like! Find out who their top fans are,” is how Like Patrol describes itself. Quite creepy, safe to say. Like Patrol would allow users, for a monthly fee, set up their account, place a target on anyone they want to stalk and the Like Patrol app would notify them whenever the stalking target put up a new post, someone liked a post, someone commented on their post, who this person was following now and more. And there were detailed sub-metrics about popularity etc. This was done by scraping user profiles, which directly violates Instagram’s policies.
It is exactly this sort of activity which Instagram has been clamping down on aggressively. Instagram app no longer has the “Following” tab, which allowed your friends and followers to see who you have been following and the posts you have been liking on the social network. This tab was removed from the app in October, and the company believes that information was not something their users necessarily wanted to share with followers. Therefore, it was extremely unlikely that Instagram would have allowed a third-party app to offer this data, and potentially a lot more information about unsuspecting users, to potential stalkers.