It has been found out that Instagram does not completely erase the data that you delete from the app. In October of last year, security researcher Saugat Pokharel requested Instagram a copy of his photos and DMs that he had deleted from the app a year ago, and Instagram sent him the data, which showed that the app never entirely removed the information from its servers.
The social media company later on explained that it was actually due to a bug in the system and Pokharel received a reward of $6000 for highlighting the issue. Instagram further claimed that the bug has been fixed this month. An Instagram spokesperson thanked the researcher in his statement in which he added that the issue has been fixed and there was no evidence of abuse.
While the issue was reported by one person only, it is not certain whether it was the case with all the users or not. However, it is not an uncommon occurrence as there is always usually a lag of an unspecified time before deleted data is completely removed from a website's server. According to Instagram, its platform takes about 90 days to completely delete the data.
Pokharel was able to highlight the issue because of Instagram's download tool which helped him download a copy of his data from the app. The download tool was introduced by the social media company in order to comply with the EU's data privacy GDPR regulations, which mandate that EU citizens have the right to access their data, therefore they can request a copy of their information within a reasonable period of time. By exercising this right, it is easy to find out if a platform has been keeping your data long after you requested them to remove it.
A similar issue had occurred with Twitter as well when direct messages exchanged between users were retained years after they were deleted.