Were my Instagram account to be taken away from me, it would probably be a blessing. It’s a time-suck more than anything, and at its worst, it negatively impacts my mental health. That said, as a writer with a small but decent following, Instagram remains a valuable platform for me to share my work. And let’s be honest, I like attention. So how much would I pay to retrieve an Instagram account like mine in the event it were hacked, for example? A hundred bucks? A thousand? What about $8 to $15 per month?
This latter option is offered by a company called Notch, which touts itself as the very first insurance company for Instagram accounts or “digital assets.” According to their website, they cover “creators,” as in influencers or meme-makers, as well as online shop owners, gamers and digital art collectors. The exact details of all this are murky — currently, the website only offers an “eligibility check” section where you enter your Instagram account and they send you a rough quote on the cost of insurance. How this applies to gamers or NFT owners is unclear. Notch didn’t return my request for comment, but after the service was first advertised to me on Instagram, I became very, very intrigued.
For Sonny, aka @sonny5ideup, his Instagram accounts are his livelihood. With more than five million followers between a handful of meme pages, Sonny relies almost exclusively upon the income earned from paid partnerships, advertising and Instagram’s Reel incentives to pay his bills. Were he to lose access to his accounts, perhaps through a hack or technological fluke — which he has before, temporarily — he’d lose everything. At his level, Sonny is likely the ideal client for a company like Notch.
Despite Instagram releasing new features like a “security checkup” in summer 2021 to help users whose accounts have been hacked, hacks continue to be a problem for small and big accounts alike. Last week, for example, K-pop star Ningning of the group Aespa was hacked after she used her account to celebrate Team China’s speed skating gold medal win in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Meanwhile rapper Nelly claims his account was hacked last week after a video of him receiving oral sex appeared on his Instagram story. On Twitter, there are thousands of non-celebrities alleging that their Instagrams have been hacked, many from the last few days alone. Though Instagram is now in its 12th year of existence and supposedly more secure than ever, the market for protecting individual accounts seems to have only increased.
According to Notch’s website, my following correlates to a potential $8 to $15 cost per month, depending on the level of coverage. Their coverage entails monitoring my account for hacks, and in the event of one, paying me $100 a day for each day I’m unable to access my account. On top of that, Notch would also retrieve my account, the methods of which, again, remain unclear. For someone like Sonny, whose accounts each have over a million followers, Notch won’t say on their website what he’d be charged or what they’d cover. Instead, after entering his email, they’d contact him directly.
Again, there have been occasions in which this type of thing would have come in handy for him. Back in 2017, Sonny woke up one day to realize all of his accounts were hacked. Fortunately, he knew someone at Instagram HQ who was eventually able to help him retrieve them. His accounts were smaller back then, but even a day without his pages could have proved costly. Admittedly, with accounts as big as his are now, it’s likely that he’d again be able to find someone directly from Instagram interested in helping him, though that remains a gamble. But until companies like Notch gain more footing, it’s one he’ll continue to take.
And with far fewer risks attached to the loss of my account, it’s one I’ll continue to take as well. Still, such forms of insurance will only continue to become necessary. Despite Notch advertising themselves as the “first” insurance for digital assets, there are a handful of other companies specializing in insuring transactions on the blockchain. Similarly, crypto companies like Gemini are increasingly adding “insurance” elements to their products to enhance trust and security in their use. But as Instech London reported last May, the current coverage available for such assets represents a tiny fraction of their overall value: “Coverage capacity lies in the low billions of dollars, whilst the total value circulating in cryptocurrencies recently soared to $2 trillion.”
Of course, this all refers to crypto, which Instagram is not. It’s interesting, though, that Notch seems to position Instagram in a similar vein. Perhaps at a certain point, our own personal digital assets on social media will function much the same. On Twitter, for example, one can already have an NFT as their profile picture. What’s to stop the Twitter account from having some sort of blockchain value itself?
All of this is obviously pure speculation, but companies like Notch could still be a peek into the future of how we value our online lives. And so, it’s really up to me (and those like me): Are my selfies priceless enough that I’m willing to pay $10 a month to protect them?