Instagram is shutting down a creepy app that lets you stalk loved ones

A new app is looking to revive one of the creepiest Instagram features and encouraging people to spy on their significant others through social media. Critics said the app’s offerings make it resemble stalkerware.

In early October, Instagram killed off its “Following” tab, which told people what posts and accounts their friends were interacting with. It would let you know whose posts they liked and what comments they left on other people’s feeds. The tab was widely regarded as a stalking tool.

Like Patrol, which quietly launched on the iOS Store in July, doesn’t just want to bring back that social media surveillance, it wants to amplify it. “Think the defunct ‘Following’ Tab, on steroids,” Sergio Luis Quintero, the app’s founder, said in an email.

It won’t be around much longer. In response to a CNET inquiry into the app, Instagram said Like Patrol’s developers were violating its rules and has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company. The Facebook-owned social network has frequently dealt with third parties scraping people’s data without their consent.

“Scraping violates our policies, and we take action against companies who we find to be engaging in it. Like Patrol was scraping people’s data, so we are taking appropriate enforcement action against them,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Apps such as Like Patrol represent just one of the ways that technology has helped people stalk others. Stalkerware apps, which are often used in abusive relationships, can track and send location data, contacts, call logs and messages to attackers. Like Patrol isn’t stalkerware, but it borders on it by encouraging people to use technology to closely monitor a person’s social media activities.

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“It’s monitoring a person’s activities, compiling it and sending it as a report,” said Wendy Zamora, editor-in-chief of cybersecurity company Malwarebytes.

Quintero argues that the information it’s scraping is public data. Private detectives often spy on social media feeds to collect data on people, and law enforcement will go undercover on Facebook to monitor groups. Like Patrol wants average people to aim that watchful eye on their own relationships. On its website, the company wrote, “New guy? New girl? What are they up to on Instagram?”

Like Patrol promises to send notifications anytime someone you’re following likes a post or comments. It breaks the information down by gender, and provides people with a list of who a person interacts with the most on Instagram. It even claims to have an algorithm to point out whenever a person likes posts from attractive people.

Facebook also said it’s banned Like Patrol from Facebook and Instagram, and the company is reviewing other apps from the same developer.

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