Locked out of your Instagram account? What about your Facebook account?
If you're one of the unknown number of users who have been hit with a temporary shutdown of your account on either service lately, it's likely that Instagram and/or its parent company, Facebook, is asking you to confirm your identity. And to do so, either service wants you to snap a photo of an official photo ID that you (hopefully) have in your possession and send it along for verification.
While that might sound like a clever hacking or phishing attempt at first glance, these requests are legitimate. The asks are seemingly part of a new round of checks by Facebook and Instagram for those who appear to be violating either service's Terms of Service – although a spokesperson wouldn't go into additional details as to what, specifically, could prompt a verification check.
"This is just a general practice for both Facebook and Instagram to request photo IDs for verification purposes depending on what type of violation may have occurred," said a Facebook spokesperson to Carl Franzen over at Talking Points Memo. "Unfortunately, I can't share more with you beyond that as we don't go into details beyond that."
As Franzen points out, it's a bit odd for Instagram to be making requests for photo identification for its users, as there's nothing in the service's Terms of Service that requires users to associate their accounts with their real-world identities. Users' account names can basically be whatever they want – be they pseudonyms, their favorite movie characters, shortened versions of their real names, et cetera.
Facebook, however, mandates that its users, "will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission," which does give at least a little bit of reasoning for why the company would demand certain users to verify their information and accounts with real-world identification.
According to CNET, which first reported about Instagram's lockouts this past Tuesday, users subjected to the verification process are first told that their accounts have been "secured" and that they need to log into Instagram from a desktop computer in order to proceed forward with the validation process. When they do so, they're asked to take a photograph of a government-issued ID and upload it.
On the Facebook side of the equation, users are told that they should cover up any information that isn't needed to verify identities – the service only cares about a user's full name, picture, and birthday.
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