Report: Teens Are Faking Out Instagram’s Tracking Algorithm

Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen here, said it set aside some $3 billion for an expected settlement with US regulators over its handlings of private user data
Alex Wong/Getty

A new report claims that teenagers have discovered how to use group accounts to flood Facebook’s Instagram platform with user data that can’t be linked to any one person. The teenagers use the techniques to defeat Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless data collection machine.

CNET reports that groups of teenagers have figured out how to trick Instagram’s tracking features which collect data on users in order to tailor posts in the apps explore tab to their interests. The teens discovered that by flooding a profile with data from multiple users, Instagram was unable to correctly track one single user’s interests.

CNET writes:

But unlike many of Instagram’s users, Mosley and her high school friends in Maryland had figured out a way to fool tracking by the Facebook-owned social network. On the first visit, her Explore tab showed images of Kobe Bryant. Then on a refresh, cooking guides, and after another refresh, animals.

“I’ve never looked at animals on this account,” Mosley mentioned in Washington, DC. At the hacker conference Shmoocon, along with her father, Russell Mosley, she’d just given a presentation on how teens were keeping their accounts private from Instagram.

CNET notes that every time Mosley refreshed Instagram’s explore tab, a different topic appeared. This was because Mosley was not the only person using the account, at least five of Mosley’s friends were also on the account at any given time.

The teens aren’t able to stop Instagram tracking them but they can confuse it by constantly changing the searches and profiles viewed on a single account. CNET outlines how Mosley and her friends tricked the algorithm, writing:


“They might be like, ‘Hey, you posted from this hamburger place in Germany, maybe you like Germany, or hamburgers, or traveling, we’ll just throw everything at you,'” Mosley said. “We fluctuate who’s sending to what account. One week I might be sending to 17 accounts, and then the next week I only have four.”

Facebook said that this method was not against its policies, but didn’t recommend it to people because of security concerns.

Read the full report at CNET here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at


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