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Whoops: ISIS Backers Reveal Location on Instagram

So much for Islamic State’s reputation for being media savvy. It turns out that hundreds of the group’s supporters took to Instagram in recent weeks to spread their message of terror—along with the locations from where they uploaded their photos and videos.

The privacy fail appears to have come about because owners of pro-ISIS accounts forgot to omit geo-location data while using Instagram’s “Stories” feature—a tool that lets users submit a montage of snaps and videos of their day.

The “Stories” disappears from users’ Instagram accounts after 24 hours, which make a less permanent data footprint than other types of social media. Nonetheless, the inclusion of location information means the users can be tracked.

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According to the Daily Beast, researchers analyzed thousands of Instagram accounts with ISIS-related content and discovered more than 500 stories, and 290 accounts, contained information location. The accounts appear to be primarily in Europe: For instance:

One [account screenshot showed a pro-Islamic State user on the outskirts of a city in northern Italy. In a photo the apparent user is posing with several friends, making the iconic single-finger gesture linked to the Islamic State to the camera.

The second account—which has a user who makes sure to hide their face in posts—was leaking location data pointing to Russia, Stroppa said. A third pro-Islamic user, posting from France judging by the location data, shared a photo of a mock “United States of Islam” passport with Islamic State branding.

The researchers said, in some cases, the ISIS Instagram Stories contained precise latitudinal and longitudinal data, which would make it easy for authorities to track the account owner. In other cases, the above anecdotes suggest the location information was more general.

News of the location leaks comes after the AP reported this week that ISIS, which has been beleaguered by military setbacks, is turning to more homegrown propaganda—including Instagram Stories—to promote their message.

The issue of Instagram users landing in trouble after inadvertently revealing their location is a recurring phenomenon. Law enforcement in Dallas recently found a wanted criminal by getting his GPS location from Instagram, while the criminal who robbed Kim Kardashian in Paris said he tracked her using her location on social networks.