Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A free service provided online — which integrated with one of your social-media profiles — was in actuality an attempt to gather your information in order to promote another service.
That’s what appears to be the case regarding #2015bestnine, a website that experienced a brief time in the spotlight late last year, when thousands of people used the service to compile their nine most-liked Instagram photos from 2015. The site culled publicly accessible profiles to create a grid of users’ most popular posts.
According to BuzzFeed, the site also prompted some visitors to provide their email address in order to pre-register for a soon-to-launch match-making site. Reportedly, 130,000 people signed up. Nine, which launched today, uses that photo collage as your dating profile. Its co-founders, Yusuke Matsumura and Mai Sekiguchi, claim that more than three-quarters of these early sign-ups were women. (Anecdotally, none of the people I spoke to who used the service recalled being prompted for or handing over their email address.)
What’s worth emphasizing is that, given how 2015bestnine.com worked, none of the tactics here are particularly invasive. The collage-making feature only required one data point: a public Instagram username. Users could not connect their accounts through the service’s API, which means that the site wouldn’t be able to access any private information associated with them. The only way that Nine could get email addresses … was by asking people to voluntarily provide their email addresses.
Still, this could have turned out way worse if a company with less scruples demanded tons of user information for the same service. In general, if a site is offering to scrape, analyze and aggregate your social-media posts, there’s something in it for them as well.