It's not easy becoming an Instagram influencer. But if you get there, you can suddenly generate nice amounts of cash for promoting brands, products, and services. But as a new leak suggests, there's another side to that.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch reported that millions of Instagram influencer and celebrity accounts that had been scraped from the social network leaked online. In its evaluation of the data, the site found 49 million account records and discovered that they included user email addresses, phone numbers, and other information.

According to the report, the data was found on a databse owned by a Mumbai-based social media marketing firm called Chtrbox. TechCrunch said that Chtrbox pays influencers on social media sites, including Instagram, to help promote its clients' products. The database apparently helped the company determine how much to pay for sponsorships.

But since then, some new developments have emerged.

For one, Instagram told TechCrunch that after an investigation, the company didn't find any evidence of private user information leaking publicly. And the company said that the database only included 350,000 users instead of the 49 million.

In a subsequent statement, Instagram told TechCrunch that it's conducting a deeper investigation into the data to see how Chtrbox allegedly obtained the data.

Of course, soon after the report, there was widespread concern that data was being obtained from Instagram users. And as you might expect, in its statement to TechCrunch, Instagram made clear that it takes "any allegation of data misuse seriously."

But there's perhaps more to this story than just a reported data leak. This story is about the appeal of influencers--and what to do when a data breach happens.

The Influencer Appeal

The fact is, influencers have become integral components in the broader marketing mix companies use to promote their brands. You might already be using digital ads, social media, and traditional media to promote your company, but you should be aware that some influencers have millions of followers who care about everything they have to say. Getting your product in front of those millions of people--and getting the influencer to get them to buy--can be a boon for your company.

It's against that backdrop that marketing firms across the world are analyzing social media accounts to find the best method for promoting client brands. And it's why companies are trying to find opportunities to use data to analyze influencer accounts and determine how much they need to pay influencers to get the best results.

For influencers, however, there are real implications. They want to build their audiences and attract brands to their pages, but they also want to maintain their privacy. They are, after all, celebrities. And having their phone numbers or email addresses publicly available can be quite the cause for concern.

But exactly what they can do is tough to say. For one, it'd be good to create distinct email addresses and phone numbers for their influencer accounts. That way, in the worst-case scenario data leak, only the information they already share with companies and perhaps even consumers is publicly available.

Beyond that, there isn't much influencers--or anyone--can do in today's Internet to maintain privacy. Like it or not, companies house our data and third-parties are constantly looking for ways to obtain it. In some cases, our data is kept safe. In others, it's taken. And by the time it's made public, there's little any of us can do to stop it and rebuild our privacy.

For those who are influencers and whose contact information is especially valuable, data security is even tougher.

Published on: May 24, 2019
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