Instagram Asks Some Users to Provide Video Selfies for Verification

Published · Nov 20, 2021

Instagram is asking users to provide video selfies to prove they’re not bots. People are concerned as the exposure of this practice follows Meta’s announcements regarding facial recognition. It’s yet unclear when the company rolled out this feature or how prevalent it is.

Social media consultant Matt Navarra uploaded some screenshots to Twitter showing what parts of the process look like. He added, perhaps jokingly, that Meta promises not to collect biometric data.

The context for his comment is that Meta, Instagram’s parent company, recently made some announcements that can only be described as “ nuanced.”

First, it stated that Facebook, the company, (now Meta) would be halting facial recognition. Then, Meta clarified that this applies to Facebook, the platform, not the company at large.

Meta went on to say that it is looking for other applications of facial recognition.

Now, it has seemingly rolled out this feature for Instagram.

Trust Issues

Instagram was quick to point out it reserves the video authentication method for “suspicious accounts”. Moreover, it claims the process doesn't use facial recognition.

On the first point, a writer at the Verge made several attempts to create suspicious accounts but couldn’t trigger the video selfie request.

On the second point, Instagram claims humans would be looking at the video selfie. However, the request is to take the video and show various angles of their faces. This appears to be the same input used to build a robust facial print for facial recognition. This is something TikTok has been accused of previously.

It’s not that Instagram can’t collect biometric data. It’s just that it is saying it won’t while requiring users to do something that would enable it. In short, Instagram is making a promise, not a guarantee.

Moreover, this is still sensitive data. It can be put to a number of uses aside from facial recognition. For example, data brokers are always eager to find new data to sell to people search sites and background check services.

Internet users are becoming increasingly concerned about their online privacy. Therefore, asking for a thorough recording of their faces makes them uncomfortable, to say the least.

Instagram will soon require its over one billion users to submit their real birthdays.

Are blanket video selfies on the cards too?

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.