A security researcher named Saugat Pokharel retrieved data deleted more than a year ago on Instagram, thereby showing that this information has never been completely deleted from Instagram’s servers.
According to The Verge, Instagram later said there was a bug in their system and it has now been fixed. Pokharel was also rewarded $ 6,000 for pointing out the bug. According to TechCrunch, Pokharel discovered the bug last October and said it was fixed earlier this month.
An Instagram spokesperson said: “Researchers told them how to include deleted Instagram photos and user messages in copies of information if the public used them. A tool for downloading Instagram information. We have fixed the problem, and no evidence of abuse of this information was found. Thanks to researchers for reporting on this issue. “
While it is unclear whether this issue affects all Instagram users, it is not an uncommon error. When users delete data from online services, there is always an indefinite delay before the data is completely deleted from the website servers. On Instagram, it can take 90 days to erase data (according to the company). Security researchers have also seen similar problems with other services in the past, including Twitter, when they found it continued to store messages that users had deleted.
The issue this time is exposed is because Pokharel has the option of downloading a copy of its data from Instagram. The company previously introduced this download tool in 2018 to comply with EU data privacy GDPR regulations. It is also considered to be the easiest way to detect whether companies are storing user deleted data for an unusually long time.