Social media is more rampant than ever, with a common tendency to share every moment of our lives with (sometimes faceless) cyber-audiences.
Facebook constantly touts snapshots of your friends at the latest clubs, Twitter users are endlessly sharing their day-to-day thoughts, YouTube has become a popular hub for vlogging your daily routines – and with Instagram being a mix of all these forms of media, their platform is no different.
As addictive as it may be to broadcast your daily happenings on the ‘gram (and with all the features they provide, we can’t blame you!), publicizing all your personal information may come with its share of risks.
Sure, you’ve got friends and family liking your every activity, but what about those outside your known social circle?
Chances are, they may be harmless – social media is about connecting people together from across the globe, after all – though who’s to say you’re completely safe from online trolls, spammy bots or even cybercriminals?
With an alarmingly large number of exploitation crimes on the platform and the growing issue of social media stalking in general, it pays to be able to protect your Instagram privacy.
Below, we discuss all you need to know about Instagram’s privacy settings, policies, and practices.
What are Instagram’s privacy policies?
According to the Instagram Help Center, the platform gathers the following types of data from users: information provided directly (these including e-mails, passwords, usernames, phone numbers, and user content), contacts on your device or other third-party social media site, profile analytics, log file information, content metadata (ex. hashtags, geotags, etc.), device identifiers, and your activity on the app.
Their policies clearly state their use of such information – such as providing a more efficient log-in process, delivering more “personalized” content, allowing you to monitor your metrics, implementing automatic app updates on your device.
They also explain the possibility of sharing this data with affiliated companies and service providers, which can they can use to provide you with a more tailored Instagram experience or as data to improve the platform’s service.
Additionally, the policies ensure you of their safety protocols in protecting your Instagram privacy.
These include secure login procedures that verify your identity (such as requesting for a unique password) and warning prompts when “suspicious login attempts” are detected.
However, their guidelines clarify that you, as the user, are responsible for “maintaining the secrecy” of your passwords, profile, and e-mail information among your social circles.
To assist in maintaining your Instagram privacy, the platform thus provides plenty of options for managing a private Instagram and your security across the web.
How do I set privacy on Instagram?
There is a range of ways to protect your Instagram privacy – whether it’s privatizing your profile altogether, or selectively blocking users from accessing your content. We delve into the different methods below.
1. Make your entire profile private
As a default setting, all Instagram profiles are set for public viewing. To completely privatize your profile from users who don’t follow you, tap the three horizontal lines at the upper right-hand corner of your screen.
This will pop out your sidebar of account options. At the bottom, tap “Settings”.
Tap “Privacy” and then “Account Privacy”.
Here, you can toggle between a Private or Public account. Ensure your mode is set to “Private”.
Congrats! Your account is now hidden from anyone absent on your “Followers” list. Posts you share will no longer appear publicly on their corresponding hashtag or location pages. though they’ll still be visible to those who follow you.
To carry out this same process on your desktop, click on the profile icon on the upper right-hand corner.
Select the “Settings” icon next to your account name.
Then, check the box next to “Private Account”, and you’re done!
2. Manage your Followers, Tags, and Comments
What if you want to keep a publicly accessible Instagram, but maintain privacy from certain users? Simple: block or remove them from your list of followers.
To block a user, go to their profile, then tap the three vertical dots on the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
This should pop up a list of options, among them, being “Block User”.
Tap this option, and prompt should come confirming your decision to block the user. Select “Block” again, and your profile should now successfully be hidden from their view.
If you have a private Instagram but wish to remove someone from your followers, tap on your followers’ list.
Select the three dots next to the follower you’d like to remove.
This should then pop out a prompt asking you to confirm your removal of this follower. Tap “Remove”, and they should no longer be able to access your profile.
Perhaps you’d like to avoid the possibility of Instagram trolls, spam, or nasty and irrelevant post interactions altogether. Fortunately, the platform also provides users with the option of blocking specific types of comments from their content.
To do this, access your account settings. Tap “Privacy”, then under “Interactions”, tap “Comments”.
Here, you have the option of blocking comments from problematic users, automatically hiding what Instagram deems as “offensive” content, and also hiding comments that contain specific words or phrases from displaying on your posts.
To block certain users from commenting, tap this option, then enter their usernames in the provided field.
To manually filter out specific comments, tap this option, and enter your chosen words or phrases in the field provided. You also have the option of filtering out the most reported words on your content.
You can also turn off commenting altogether for a particular post. To do this, tap the three vertical dots above your post.
Tap “Turn off commenting”. This should then successfully restrict anyone from leaving comments on your photo or video.
If you have a private Instagram and comment on a public Instagrammer’s post, it will still be visible to anyone who views the content. Your username will also be clickable, however, only those on your follower list will be granted access to your feed.
Maintaining Instagram privacy by approving tags
When tagged in a post, Instagram automatically adds it to the “tagged posts” tab on your profile. However, if you want control over which posts appear under this section, you can change your Instagram privacy settings to manually approve your tags.
In your settings menu, select “Privacy”, and under “Interactions”, select “Tags”.
Here, you can toggle whether you want Instagram to automatically share your tagged posts onto your profile, or if you’d like to approve them first.
Once you’ve disabled the automatic function, you will still receive notifications when a user tags you in a post.
To manually display these under your “tagged posts”, select the post you’ve been tagged in, then tap the three vertical dots above it.
Select “Post options”. From there, you can now choose to display the post onto your profile. Alternatively, you can also remove the tag.
Private Instagram users who tag people outside of their approved follower list will not be able to send the person a push or “Activity” notification.
3. Adjust your story settings
With a private Instagram, only users who follow you will be able to access your Stories.
However, if you own a public account and wish to hide your Stories from certain people, you can easily adjust this in your settings as well.
In the “Privacy” section of your settings menu, select “Story”.
Here, you have a range of options that determine your Story privacy settings, one of which being able to block specific users from viewing your Stories or live videos.
As with blocking specific users from commenting, all you need to do is enter their usernames in the field provided.
You also have the option of making story replies exclusive to your followers or to followers you follow back. Alternatively, you can also turn off the feature altogether.
By default, Instagram allows users to reshare content onto their Stories.
Stories can also be reshared through direct messaging.
However, if you want to prevent users from resharing your content this way, your Story privacy settings also give you the option of disabling these features.
4. Restrict access to your location (for iPhone users)
To turn off Instagram’s access to your location, simply tap on your iPhone’s “Settings”, then select “Privacy” and “Location Services”.
Here, you have the option of selecting “Never” or “While Using the App” under “Allow Location Access”.
5. Turn off your activity status
When an Instagram user is active on the app, you will normally see a green dot displayed at the bottom of their profile icon.
If you want to keep your Instagram activity on the down-low, you can choose to disable your activity status from followers.
To do this, enter your Instagram “Privacy” settings, then select “Activity Status”.
Here, you can toggle between displaying your status or hiding it. By disabling your activity status, however, you also won’t be able to see anyone else’s.
6. Clear your search history
Instagram uses your previous searches to help tailor the app’s content to your interests and preferences. However, if you clear your entire search history, follow the steps below.
In your “Settings” menu, then select the “Security” option.
Then, tap “Clear search history”.
This should grant you the option of clearing your search history. Once you select this, tap “Yes, I’m sure” in the following prompt.
Maintaining Instagram privacy across the web
Though your content is secure on the platform with a private Instagram – anything shared on external social media websites will be publicly visible to viewers of that website.
However, if the post has an attached permalink to the original Instagram post, viewers will still need to be an approved Instagram follower in order to view the content.
Additionally, content from your Instagram will likely be displayed on Google search results.
To prevent this from happening, you can either keep your Instagram private or restrict these websites from accessing your process.
Instagram’s privacy guidelines display a list of these popular sites, for those who wish to contact them directly.
However, if your content was already visible on Google search before privatizing your account, it may take time for Google to remove the images.
Can people still view private profiles?
Though there are plenty of evident methods in securing your Instagram account, users can still find ways to view private profiles.
Of course, there’s the honest, legitimate way of approaching this – and the shady, unethical way. We discuss either methods below.
Viewing private profiles upon request
Users can still ask to view your profile by sending you a request. This is done by hitting the usual blue “Follow” button.
The request will then appear in your notifications under “Follow requests”.
Select “Approve” or “Ignore” to provide or restrict the user’s access to your profile.
Viewing private profiles with a fake account
Another (albeit, creepy) way for users to view private profiles on Instagram is through creating a fake account.
These can be under the guise of someone you know, a well-known influencer or brand, a fake business, or simply someone using an exceptionally attractive profile picture.
Fake profiles can be a bit more challenging to filter through, especially if they’re convincing in their methods. If something smells fishy with a follow request, watch out for these common signs of a bogus account:
- No profile picture or a stocky, ingenuine-looking photo
- An empty feed or one of the very few photos; often of strange and images or low-quality ads
- An incredibly high follower count; paired with a limited, poor quality feed and low engagement
- Their oldest post was made very recently, prior to sending you a request
Though there are few exceptions to the rule, it’s better to be safe than sorry: if an account looks strangely inauthentic, then it probably is.
Keep your Instagram privacy protected
It’s easy to dismiss the importance of online privacy with such an open culture on social media – but you never know when sensitive information falls in the wrong hands.
Thankfully, Instagram has generous options available to grant you plenty of control over your Instagram privacy.
Though it’s still possible to view private profiles, with the right settings, you can keep your content safe from unwanted trolls, creeps, and online criminals.
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