Is Instagram SPYING on us? Man claims his girlfriend was shown an advert on the app featuring a picture of a bedroom ‘just like’ theirs after discussing their décor
- Vincenzo Tiani, a university professor who lives in Brussels, Belgium, said he and his partner were left ‘paralysed for a few minutes’ by the ‘creepy’ advert
- Image of bedroom included white bedside cabinet, yellow and white striped bed linen and beige and light brown soft furnishings – nearly identical to their own
- Acknowledged bizarre similarity between two images could be coincidence
A man was left questioning if Instagram is spying on him after a targetted advert featuring a picture of a bedroom eerily similar to his own popped up just after discussing their décor with his girlfriend.
Vincenzo Tiani, a university professor who lives in Brussels, Belgium, said he and his partner were left ‘paralysed for a few minutes’ by the ‘creepy’ ad.
Writing in Vice Italia, he told how the image of the bedroom included a white bedside cabinet, a bed with yellow and white striped sheets and soft furnishings in shades of beige and light brown – nearly identical to their own interior design.
‘I had never come across ad content that hit so close to home before. Was it possible that Instagram was somehow spying on our room?’ he said, adding that he later remembered he and his girlfriend had been talking about buying another cabinet to complete the set a week earlier.
Vincenzo Tiani, a university professor who lives in Brussels, Belgium, was left questioning if Instagram is spying on him after a targetted advert featuring a picture of a bedroom eerily similar to his own popped up just after discussing their décor with his girlfriend. Pictured: his bedroom
Vincenzo admitted he couldn’t recall if he’d looked one up online, but if he had it ‘could explain why’ his girlfriend was shown an advert for a similar cabinet on her phone.
However, he pointed out that their cabinet is by the brand Kartell, while the advert was for a linen company called Bonsoirs which doesn’t sell furniture.
‘Basically, the ad was for bedsheets, but the image featured our exact Kartell cabinet,’ he explained.
Vincenzo acknowledged that the bizarre similarity between the two photographs could be pure coincidence, and claims he was told this by a spokesperson for Facebook when he queried it.
‘There is simply no way to know if the ad appeared on my girlfriend’s phone by coincidence or because of some scary ad-targeting,’ he concluded.
Vincenzo acknowledged that the bizarre similarity between the two photographs could be pure coincidence, and claims he was told this by a spokesperson for Facebook when he queried it. Pictured: the ad that popped up showing near-identical interior design to his bedroom
‘My girlfriend and I definitely won’t be bringing our phones into the bedroom for a while.’
Other Instagram users have shared similar tales on social media; one tweeted: ‘I made a note in my note app to do more coding challenges in 2021. Half an hour later I open Instagram and see nothing but ads for coding challenge websites. Ads I weren’t seeing before. Stop spying on me.’
Another wrote: ‘I need to know how does Instagram algorithms work, in no way they could randomly bring me posts from the series and shows I am watching on Netflix though I never searched it up there.’
And one Instagram user claimed she was sent a bizarrely well-targetted ad after her husband’s aunt gave them an unusual tool to remove ice from a car window for Christmas.
Other Instagram users have shared similar tales on social media; one Instagram user claimed she was sent a bizarrely well-targetted ad (pictured) after her husband’s aunt gave them an unusual tool to remove ice from a car window for Christmas and described how it worked in the same room as her phone
Other social media users claimed they were left perplexed after receiving targetted ads on Instagram
‘She literally stopped by for 20 minutes,’ they explained. ‘When we opened it she explained it to us as my phone was nearby.
‘After she left this ad came up on my Facebook, swipe left to see the screenshot. A very rare tool that Facebook heard us speaking about. Private conversations in my own home.’
Vincenzo, an expert in privacy, media and copyright, explained how many social media apps collect data including online searches, your WiFi and your location and combine them to offer highly-targeted ads.
He added: ‘Since voice-activated technology like Siri and Alexa have entered our homes, some of your conversations are actually being recorded and stored.’
He referenced a case in 2019 when Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, admitted it had employed third-party contractors to transcribe audio messages users exchanged on its Messenger app to improve its automatic transcription algorithm, following an investigation by Bloomberg.
The orange dot, circled in red by MailOnline, appears at the top of your screen whenever an app is using your microphone or camera
Various apps came under fire this summer for accessing smartphone features without permission – with Instagram one of those which was caught in the act.
Apple’s iOS 14 beta update in July meant users saw a green icon on the control panel of an iPhone or iPad screen when an app attempts to infiltrate the camera in the background.
A user shared a screenshot of the notification on the control panel after scrolling through their Instagram feed – a round circle with the ‘recorder indicator’ in the centre.
HOW TO DENY ACCESS TO MICROPHONE AND CAMERA
– Go to iPhone Settings and then Privacy
– Go to Microphone
– Toggle off the offending apps from green to grey
– Do the same under Camera
A Facebook spokesperson told DailyMail.com at the time: ‘We only access your camera when you tell us to – for example, when you swipe from Feed to Camera.
‘We found and are fixing a bug in iOS 14 Beta that mistakenly indicates that some people are using the camera when they aren’t. We do not access your camera in those instances, and no content is recorded.’
In September a lawsuit was filed accusing Facebook of spying on Instagram users for ‘market research’ by secretly accessing their mobile cameras through the app.
A complaint filed in a federal court in San Francisco claimed Instagram’s parent company intentionally activated smartphone cameras without permission, to collect ‘lucrative and valuable data from users that it would not otherwise have access to,’ Bloomberg reported.
The lawsuit, filed by Brittany Conditi, from New Jersey, came after the release of Apple’s iOS 14 beta update.
Apple’s subsequent iPhone software update features a new ‘warning dot’ that enables users to see whether one of their apps is watching or listening in.
Released in September, iOS 14 displays a small orange dot at the top corner of the iPhone’s display to let users know their microphone is activated.
The small but noticeable dot appears just above the signal bars and next to the battery indicator.
It switches to dark green when the camera is activated too, telling iPhone users that apps are ‘watching’.
iPhone users can go to Settings and Privacy to switch off any of their apps’ access to microphone and camera.
The helpful dot is part of Apple’s increasing focus on privacy as part of the new iOS.
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