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Facebook and Instagram Requiring Users to Upload Photo ID
By: Jessica Cherok
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By now, you have probably heard the rumor that Facebook and Instagram are requiring your government-issued ID in order to restore locked accounts. Probably more accurate: By now, you’ve heard this is not a rumor, but true.

Instagram users who have found themselves locked out of their accounts have been prompted by the applications to upload a picture of their government-issued photo ID in order to regain access to their account. As Instagram locked or removed a number of accounts this past week for various alleged violations of terms, users who found themselves facing this new ID requirement were immediately suspicious.

After all, Instagram and Facebook have been having quite a time recently with concerns over privacy. Many people who received the ID verification notice worried it was a ruse by identity thieves in order to access their personal information. Compounding the issue, many users felt that they had not violated Instagram’s terms, and could not understand why their account would have been one of those blocked in the first place.

So what is with this rash of account lockings? One theory is that Instagram is trying to weed out users who are under 13 years old.

According to the terms of both Instagram and Facebook, users must be at least 13 in order to create an account. Websites that cater to the under-13 crowd have to follow a whole set of federal requirements, including a pretty stringent (and cumbersome) age verification. Neither Facebook nor Instagram has these safeguards in place, which is why their terms require users to be over 13. Without these, both could face hefty liabilities if found to be allowing underage children as users.

In order to prevent underage users, Instagram could be locking suspected accounts and requiring that government-issued ID to be uploaded, since this would not be documentation most users under 13 would possess. Even if the child had something like a passport, the birthdate is clearly visible.

Still, there is a pretty glaring flaw in this form of verification — if you don’t have the ID to prove yourself, just create a new account. After all, the ID verification isn’t required at the time of account creation.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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