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App for anonymously monitoring Instagram accounts raises concerns about ‘stalking and harassment’

A new app that's said to allow people to "track and monitor any Instagram account" has become a cause for concern. (Photo: Getty Images)

08/02/2019 UPDATE: InstaMon creator, Toni Manolache, addressed concerns about the app and tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he’s found a solution to ensure that the service can only be used to monitor business accounts.

“When I've built this service, my intentions were good and I never thought it can be used in a bad way,” he explains. “After a long night of coding, I've finally found a solution.”

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A new service promoted by Product Hunt is causing outrage and concern among social media users after promising to allow people to “track and monitor any Instagram account for free.”

The startup called InstaMon was promoted on Product Hunt’s social media on Wednesday with a tweet that read, “Track anyyyy Instagram account,” and quickly prompted negative reactions.

Product Hunt promoted the controversial app InstaMon on social media on Wednesday. (Photo: Twitter)

The since-deleted post had people pointing out the dangers that come from providing the opportunity to anonymously track another account — namely stalking and harassment — while others urged Product Hunt to remove the product from its site.

Still, InstaMon remains on the Product Hunt website as of Thursday evening, where the product’s explanation reads, “InstaMon lets you track and monitor any Instagram account: competitors, favorite brands, friends, partners and family members. It's great for social media agencies, individual businesses, parents and everyone who has an interest on social media.”

In the review section on the page, the app’s creator, Toni Manolache, also provided a further explanation of his product and how the idea for it was sparked.

“The idea for the project came to me when a friend, who runs a small social media agency, complained that he wasted too much time tracking the Instagram accounts of his clients’ competitors,” he wrote. “I saw a need, so I've started working on InstaMon.”

The rest of the review feed is filled with people explaining the apparent threat that the service poses.

“If you really cared about making this for brands and not for stalking you should only allow business accounts to be tracked,” one person wrote. “You know this will be used for bad things and you are OK with it. You explicitly state that this is to track friends, family and partners and this is not OK. Take responsibility and take this down.”

“I don't know that monitoring other peoples' Instagram accounts is a good stance on privacy. The nature of your product means your users can't be held accountable for any inappropriate monitoring. My wife has a very real stalker with a restraining order, and this is *exactly* the kind of application he or anybody else would abuse,” commented another.

One man went on to write, “Whatever value this product has for marketing is outweighed by its potential for abuse — stalking and harassment.”

Still, Manolache said that the service’s intent is to help others “monitor” accounts rather than to “harass,” although he did see some value in the information offered by critics.

“To monitor is one thing, to harass is another! I haven't thought that this service can be used with bad intent,” Manolache wrote. “I'm going to only permit the monitor of public accounts that have at least 10,000 followers — these aren't personal accounts for sure.”

Manolache tells Yahoo Lifestyle that InstaMon uses the Instagram API to monitor public accounts, allowing users to receive emails when an account that they monitor has new posts. He also clarifies that it is aimed at social media agencies — although he has yet to determine a way to ensure that social media managers are the only people able to sign up and business accounts are the only ones to be monitored.

“InstaMon can’t access private accounts, so it can only be used to monitor public accounts, and soon, public BUSINESS accounts only,” he wrote in an email.

Instagram already has its own functionality that allows people to subscribe to certain accounts by turning on post notifications. As for how InstaMon might function, an Instagram spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they’re currently reviewing the service.

“We are reviewing this app against our platform policies and we will take action if we find any violations,” the spokesperson says.

Representatives from Product Hunt didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

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