Over the past weeks, Instagram has started asking some users to validate their identity with photo ID. The move is in line with a verified account initiative pursued by Instagram's parent company Facebook since February last year. However, unlike Facebook, Instagram allows members to use public-facing pseudonyms; so what exactly are users verifying?

"This is just a general practice for both Facebook and Instagram to request photo IDs for verification purposes depending on what type of violation may have occurred."

Speaking with TPM IdeaLab, a spokesperson confirmed that the requests for photo ID validation are genuine, explaining that they are in "response to suspected violations" of Instagram's terms of service. "This is just a general practice for both Facebook and Instagram to request photo IDs for verification purposes depending on what type of violation may have occurred." Neither Facebook nor Instagram has expanded on these comments.

It's unclear what types of "violation" would prompt Instagram to ask a user for photo ID, but one possibility is that the popular photo-sharing service is pursuing people whose usernames appear to be real names. When Facebook began its push for verified accounts, it confirmed that it was initially targeting those with "a large number of subscribers," but has since extended the program to cover "regular" Facebook users.

Instagram's lack of communication on this matter may worry some users. It wouldn't take much of an effort to explain what's actually going on here, rather than brushing users' concerns off with broad terminology. The company's recent attempts to change its terms of service were met with anger and confusion, most of which could have been avoided had Instagram actually explained to users what the changes meant. We've reached out to Instagram for clarification on its policy, and will update you when we hear back.