How Instagram Uses Your Data
According to a post from 2017, the most recent policy update, the app uses your information to help you access your profile after signing in, recall information, provide personalized content (like those eerily spot-on ads that show up after you've been looking at certain accounts), improve their service, develop new products, monitor metrics, diagnose issues, update the app, and run special offers.
How Instagram Deals With Data Requests
While the app reveals they may access, preserve, and share information from Instagram in regards to legal matters, a Facebook spokesperson shared, "We do not remove content from Instagram simply because law enforcement asked us to. Our approach to content on Instagram — as well as to requests from law enforcement — is to evaluate each situation in accordance with our policies." In terms of providing information like deleted posts and accounts to law enforcement, the guidelines on the Facebook website state: "We do not retain data for law enforcement purposes unless we receive a valid preservation request before a user has deleted that content from our service."
On the Facebook Transparency website, the number of government requests for data in 2018 was 214,449 globally. From January to December, 73.5% of those requests resulted in "some data given." To put that into perspective, per Statista, Instagram notched 1 billion monthly users and 500 million daily users in June 2018. You can look at a breakdown of requests by country on the website. You can also see a full description of all the legal requests, with court-ordered search warrants and subpoenas being the bulk of requests in the United States.
What This Means For Instagram Users
Of course, when it comes to social media, protecting your information is important, so it's good to know what the rules are. When you agree to the terms of any social networking site, you're likely agreeing to a lot that you don't necessarily understand. In this case, a private account might create more security in terms of not being able to be found by other Instagram users. While that doesn't necessarily mean your account info is off limits in the case of legal matters, you can also know that Instagram will only comply with data requests so far as the company is legally bound to do so. And going off the 2018 numbers, out of 500 million daily Instagram users, 214,449 requests (which is about 0.00043% of all daily users) were made, and out of those requests, 157,705 of them resulted in "some data provided." So, it appears the odds of your account even being involved in a government request are very low.
If you're interested in diving deeper into the data requests Instagram has received, you can go to the Facebook Transparency page, and if you're ever tempted to repost a privacy notice that looks like it was created on a Windows 95 desktop, just resist the urge. Your comments section will thank you.