Instagram Locking Out Users, Asking for Government ID to Reinstate Access


Over the last few days, many Instagram and Facebook users received a nasty shock when they were unceremoniously locked out of their accounts. The lock-out was accompanied by a message asking for government-issued proof of ID before being let back in.

If these were famous people or celebrities, that would be understandable. But all manner of users have been locked out of their accounts over the last week pending identification; some are even being asked to provide birth certificates if their IDs are deemed unacceptable.

Here’s an example of the official notice:


Apparently, this wave of ID checks was made possible in part by (surprise, surprise) Instgram’s policy changes that went live on the 19th.

Although the most controversial parts of the new policy were removed, other changes — such as the ability to terminate your account or prevent you from accessing it at any time, for any reason — did go through. Before now, Instagram’s policy only allowed such action for a handful of basic reasons (e.g. nudity, harassment, etc.).

What makes the Instagram side of the ID checks all the more strange is the fact that, unlike Facebook’s policy, nowhere in Instagram’s terms are you required to provide your real name or accurate information. It’ll be pretty hard to provide government issued ID for a pseudonym.

A spokesman assured TPM that ID checks were “common practice” and the requests were only being made “if we have reason to believe the person is potentially in violation of the Terms,” but refused to share any details beyond that.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Image credit: Photo illustration based on Renewing your driver license is the best birthday present and the best way to spend a day off work by hansenbrian

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    Feels like another e-martial law…

  • RT

    Some states like Virginia have black and white drivers license photos. So if you live there and don’t have a passport (or don’t want to give an image of your passport to a company that is happy to share info with 3rd parties) are you shut out of Instagram?

  • rz67

    Something’s wrong.

  • André van Rooyen

    You think? :)

  • Plan 9 From Dana

    So, who exactly has been asked for an ID? Is it only minorities, members of certain groups, bloggers critical of FB?

  • AP

    I was asked to provide a government issued ID for both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I was a bit wary about sending such confidential information on the Internet, but ended up sending an ID with all my information covered except for my name, birth date and picture. About 8 hours later, I recieved an e-mail from a person adressing themselves as “Frank” from the Facebook Team, telling me that after investigating my case further, they came to the conclusion that my Facebook was restricted for NO REASON, and the service has made a mistake. Access to my Facebook account was given back to me. However, I have still not heard back from Instagram and am still not able to log onto my account, which they have also locked me out of by mistake. My account is still open for others to see, meaning I am the only one obstructed from viewing my OWN photos. I have sent numerous reports to both Instagram and Facebook through the help page, but failed to recieve any type of reply or confirmation.

  • dialyn

    Let’s see…pulling out my reasons not to use Facebook. Add this to the list. Check.

  • DrMookinstein

    What’s that smell? Oh it’s the smell of thousands of people burning their ties with Instagram.

  • GreyStation

    Its not like Instagram and Facebook are essential for getting by the day (okay – for some people it is.. like girls.. :P) These services thrive on our participation so this move is absolutely stupid and what are they going to do with this ID?

  • Amy

    My sons Instagram as count had this happen. I am not providing them a government if so he is not using his account. So dumb

  • jeffmtrost

    I think this is Facebook’s response to the Manti Te’o fiasco. Gotta watch out for that Catfishing.

  • John Sluder

    just say no!

  • harumph

    I think it’s pretty funny that David Choe keeps getting blocked out of Instagram.

  • entropy

    Facebook and Instagram are data mining tools. All that information is why they are worth so much. Data that is reliably attached to a specific person / gender / age group is much more valuable.

  • Mansgame

    I would be outraged if I didn’t want instagram to die a horrible death.

  • AntonyShepherd

    You know, if something like that happened to me, my response would be “F*** You, Facebook!”

  • Alex Szecsi

    These sites often ask id’s IF something went wrong and the user really cant do nothing I mean a major problem occuring.Like password stealing or

  • Libby Stack

    NY will be going B&W on the next round of licenses I think. I am not absolutely certain that it is a go, as many questions arose when the new contract to produce the licenses was awarded.

    Anyway, have said it before, facebook can go suck it. Anyone who even considers sending a gov’t ID to them had better have a good reality check.

  • Dana Sibera

    Every time I’ve been asked for photo ID, utility bills, birth certs or what have you online in order to prove ID, I make a point of photoshopping someone else’s IDs to give the vendor the information they think they need, and no more.

    Account numbers all get changed to something meaningless. Want me to prove my ID? OK then, I’ll just type it into a photoshop of some random’s electricity bill instead of your online form.

  • deeeee

    how can people use facebook? mindless zombies…

  • bob cooley

    - best snarky comment I’ve seen all week – tip o the hat to you, sir!

  • bob cooley

    the ID needs to be a color representation, not the photo in the ID (all states use color in their IDs as an anti-counterfit measure).

  • Richard Ford

    This is the same as the new real id law in China…….

  • Richard Ford

    Hammer, meet nail and its head.

  • Mead Norton

    The new terms and conditions are just as bad as the original ones everyone complained about. They just changed the wording, they can still onsell your images to promote their own ads and you are liable for any lawsuits that might arise from their use of your images…..

  • Dutch

    Facebook, Google and even Instagram with Government is a very big business… Can’t trust all of them.

  • Arriflex


  • Anon

    “drivers liscense”? Seems phishy to me

  • David Gray

    A bit of a pain in the arse, but just create a new Instagram account?

    The better option, of course, is to just not use the service(s) altogether. This Graph Search stuff has me worried for other peoples’ safety and soon this will extend to Instagram, I know it.

    Time to jump ship and go to Google+ or if you don’t trust them, find another social network of your choosing.

  • Sara

    I was asked to upload ID for Facebook. I DON’T have an Instagram account, so why is this happening?? Also, I refuse to give them ID.

  • James

    You hate film, you hate Instagram…does that make you a radical moderate?

  • Mansgame

    Perhaps. I just hate gimmicks and feel in 2013, film is mostly a gimmick used by a few elitists who want to show their superiority but they can’t let their work speak for it self so they have to use film as the only thing that sets their work apart. They also use phrases like “photographers today don’t know anything because they never smelled developing chemicals”

    With Instagram, the gimmick is the filters that people use to cover up bad photography and it’s something to make them feel superior to photographers who carry bigger cameras and who know what they’re doing. There was an article here a month or two ago that had “As for you Instagramers, twenty years from now you’ll be sorry. You’ll be more sorry than I am when I look back on a picture I made twenty years ago with a 20mm lens when I should have used a 28mm.” I agree.

  • Joseph McKee

    You need proof of ID to post your duck face to Facebook but asking for ID before you cast a vote is somehow racist!

  • Roger Thornhill

    “Papers Please”

  • Ralph Hightower

    NNBHN! Not No But Hell No!
    There is no way in hell that I am going to give my government issued ID to some company that is not financial, insurance, or medical related.
    My Social Security Number as well as 6 million other South Carolina citizens and tax filers were stolen from South Carolina’s Department of Revenue.

  • Bill

    Sure does.

  • RJ

    Why exactly would this be understandable if it were famous people and celebrities?

  • Yodel

    Hah, obviously a phishing attempt…look at the schpelling: “liscence”…NOT written by FB or IG…

  • Roy

    I’m sure that they’d be mighty impressed at such eloquence.

  • Roy


    Damn, didn’t help… still locked out.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Well, if you have spent a long time building up a large fan base, this could be damaging

  • Sam Peterson

    is it just me, or does someone at Instagram need a new dictionary? LICENSE

  • luis

    They delete my account and I try set up a new account with new email but they are still telling me that my account is still delete with my new email can someone help me

  • Rog Davies

    step son was using photo of someone famous as profile pic and got asked to prove his identity today. FYI. I guess they are cracking down on people using images of famous people as their own picture.