Like its parent company Facebook, which we covered in a previous post, Instagram collects a lot of data about its users. They use the information about what you do on their platform and on third-party sites and apps you use to show you personalized ads. Of course, both companies also share information. In the future, Instagram might even hand your entire location history to Facebook, according to TechCrunch.
To restrict the data sharing with Facebook and to limit third-party access to your posts and private information, you should customize your Instagram privacy settings. The most important options can be found in the Settings under “Privacy and security.” To get there, first go to the profile screen in the Instagram app. On Android, tap the three horizontal lines at the top right and select “Settings” at the bottom of the menu. On iOS, simply tap the gear icon.
Make Your Account Private
By default, your Instagram account is public, so anyone can view your profile, photos, videos, and stories and comment on them. If you want only approved followers to be able to see your posts, you can make your account private. Simply flip the switch for “Private Account” in the Settings menu or the “Account Privacy” submenu.
Note that this will not affect your existing followers. If someone was already following before you set your posts to private and you don’t want them to see your posts, you can block them.
Once you make your posts private, people will have to send you a follow request to see your posts, your followers list or your following list.
Hide Activity Status
People you follow or have direct conversations with can by default see when you were last active on Instagram. In Direct Messages either the time since the last activity is displayed next to the profile photo or there is a green dot, indicating that the person is currently online.
You can change the visibility of your activity status at any time. If you want to hide your activity status, go to the “Privacy and security” section of the Settings menu, select “Activity status,” and flip the switch. When you turn off this option, you will no longer be able to see other people’s activity status either.
You can remove people from your followers list if you no longer want them to see your new posts. This works for both public and private accounts.
To remove a follower, go to your profile and tap on “followers.” Then tap on the three dots to the right of the follower you would like to remove and select “Remove.”
Alternatively, you can block someone to get them to stop following you. Affected followers are not notified that you removed or blocked them.
Hide Stories / Restrict DMs and Sharing
Another option allows you to hide stories and live videos from specific people. This is useful, for example, if you don’t want to share photos or videos with your whole family.
The “Hide story from” option can be found under “Story controls” in the “Privacy and security” section of the Settings menu. When you tap on it, you can select the people from your followers list you would like to hide your story from. Confirm your selection by tapping the checkmark in the upper right.
In the Story controls you can also define who can reply to your story directly with a message. Under “Allow message replies” you can choose between “Your followers,” “Followers you follow back” and “Off”.
If you don’t want your followers to share photos and videos from your story as messages, you can prevent this by turning off “Allow sharing.” The “Share your story to Facebook” option lets you control whether or not photos and videos from your story are automatically published on Facebook.
Does a person annoy you constantly with inappropriate comments to your posts? You can stop them from commenting by blocking them. To do this, open the “Comments controls” in the “Privacy and security” section of the Settings menu and tap on “Block Comments from.” Then search for the person whose comments you want to block and confirm with “Block.”
Any new comments from people you block won’t be visible to anyone but them. They won’t be notified when you block them.
In addition, you can set filters in the Comment controls to automatically hide offensive comments or such that contain specific words or phrases (that you can manually define) from your posts.
Approve or Remove Tags
When someone tags a photo or video of you, it will automatically be added to your Instagram profile by default. To prevent this, go to “Photos and videos of you” in the “Privacy and security” section of the Settings menu and deactivate the “Add Automatically” option by flipping the switch. If you turn off the option, photos and videos you’re tagged in will appear on your profile only after you approve them.
If you choose to add photos and videos to your profile manually, you’ll still be notified when someone tags you in a photo or video. To add that photo or video to your profile, tap the photo or video, then tap your username and select “Show on My Profile.”
You can also hide photos and videos you have been tagged in from your profile later on. To do so, tap the corresponding option under “Photos and videos of you,” select the photos or videos you would like to hide from your profile, and then tap “Hide.” Note, however, that this does not remove the tag from the photo or video itself.
To remove yourself from a photo or video someone tagged you in, tap the photo or video, then tap your username, select “Remove Tag” (Android) or “More Options” > “Remove Me from Post” (iOS), and confirm with “Yes, I’m Sure” (Android) or “Remove” (iOS).
Prohibit Location Access
If you allow Instagram to access your location, it can capture and store your exact location (such as GPS coordinates) and use it for local advertising. It would also be able to build detailed motion profiles about you and share them with Facebook. By default, location access is disabled for the Instagram app at a device level. However, to be on the safe side, you should check to see if this is also the case with your device.
On Android, open the “App permissions” in the apps settings and select “Location.” Then scroll down to the Instagram app and flip the switch, if necessary. On iOS, go to “Settings” > “Privacy” > “Location Services,” search for the Instagram app, and deny location access.
More information about the Instagram privacy settings can be found in their Help Center. There you can also learn how to view and download a copy of your Instagram data, or how to temporarily disable or permanently delete your account.
Be aware that even the strictest privacy settings do not prevent Instagram, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Co. from collecting a vast amount of information about you. Using tracking scripts placed on numerous websites, they can still monitor much of what you do online even if you don’t use any of their services. Therefore, you should additionally protect yourself with anti-tracking tools such as Ghostery or Cliqz, which are available for download free of charge for desktop and mobile.