Secure Your Privacy Without Deleting Instagram

Instagram heart icon next to a safe with a shield and a settings icon

Instagram is one of the most popular and well used apps available today. Millions of people snap photos, add filters and hashtag their meals with the app. Most users reveal a lot of personal information about themselves through the app, showing pictures of their meals, family, friends, pets, and more. You may not have given a second thought to Instagram’s privacy settings, but a quick walkthrough of your options can make your privacy more secure online while using Instagram.

Why Privacy on Instagram Should Concern You

Instagram LogoIn July of 2010, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger snapped the first photos added to Instagram. Initially only available to a few family and friends, when the app when live on iOS, it took off almost instantly. By April of 2012, with a release of the app for Android and over ten million users, Facebook bought the company for $1 billion.

Within just a few months, Facebook stirred privacy concerns by changing the terms of service. The changes included the right to sell users photos to third parties without notifying users. A backlash from Instagram users caused Facebook to retract the idea. In the past year, Facebook has come under fire with the Cambridge Analytica scandal that shined a spotlight on how Facebook shares users’ data with other companies.

Instagram itself has caused concern among users recently with changes that make public when you are using the app and what you are doing with it at the time. With concerns mounting about how Instagram’s parent company protects your privacy, now is a good time to take a couple of minutes to walk through your privacy settings to ensure you are comfortable with how Instagram is handling your data.

Your Instagram Privacy Settings

The first step to securing your privacy is to find the privacy settings in Instagram. From your profile page, tap the three dots in the top right corner to bring up Settings. From there, scroll down – it’s quite a way down the list – till you see “Privacy and Security”. The long list under the “Privacy and Security” heading are your privacy controls. We have picked out those settings that are most important in protecting your privacy on Instagram. Below you can find out what settings you can change if you want your gramming to be more secure.

Instagram settings Privacy and Security

Account Privacy

You can find one of the most important settings to secure your account on Instagram in the “Account Privacy” tab. If you activate this setting, only your followers will be able to see your posts going forward. Also, you will have to approve new followers. This doesn’t affect your current followers, only those who want to follow you in the future.

Activity Status

The Activity Status has many people concerned at this time. By default, Instagram now makes your activity online public. Accounts you follow and anyone you message directly can see when you were last active on Instagram. Turning it off keeps this information private. You should be aware, though, that if you turn this off you will also not be able to see anyone else’s activity status.

Resharing to Stories

Another big feature you may want to consider turning off is Instagram’s ability to share your stories with others. When this is on, other people can share your posts to their own stories. This expands the circle of people who can view your posts – perhaps to people you don’t know or had rather not know about your life. Turning this feature off keeps others from sharing your posts and keeps your details private.

Story Controls

Clicking on “Story Controls” brings up a screen with a few different options to choose from. This first is an option called “Hide Story From”. This feature gives you the ability to hide your story and any live videos you post from specific people. If you haven’t used this before, the setting will display “0 People.” Click on that to search for followers and select those you wish to hide your photos from.

Message replies can be a good way to extend a conversation about a post. But you may not want just anyone joining the conversation. You can limit replies to those people you follow or turn off message replies entirely if you prefer.

Scrolling on down, the “Sharing” option allows you to limit others from sharing your photos and videos as messages to others. Even if you’ve turned off the option to allow others to share your posts on their stories, unless you turn off this setting as well, they can still share your photos as messages to people you don’t follow.

Comment Controls

By choosing “Comment Controls” you will get to see a screen allowing you to restrict comments on your posts. Limit comments to people you follow, just your followers, or both. You can also block comments from specific people. This is perfect if you do not want to be mean. It won’t be immediately obvious to those blocked as their comments will still show, but only to themselves. You can also have offensive comments automatically filtered, or switch on the manual filter to filter out specific keywords you don’t want to appear in comments on your posts.

Review Your Instagram History

Some employers now ask you to open up your social media accounts prior to hiring. While many still debate the legality and ethics of this practice, if you really want the job, you may feel it is best to simply agree to the requirement. Before doing so, you probably want to check whether you have posted anything in the past that might not look good to an employer.

With Instagram, you can download a copy of everything you have posted on Instagram for your review. Click on “Download Your Data”, and within 48 hours you will get a link to a file with your photos, profile information, comments, and more. This easy-to-review format can help you spot information you might not want shared with an employer, so you can adjust accordingly. Or, perhaps you just want to have the information for your personal review when a fit of nostalgia hits you. Whatever your reason, the information is available for you to download.

Other Steps to Secure Your Privacy Online

Taking time to review your privacy settings is a good idea to keep your information secure. Remember, Instagram changes their privacy policies periodically. It can be a good idea to go over your privacy settings on a regular basis to ensure the app uses your posts and activity only in the way you want. You can also permanently delete your Instagram account, if you want.

Smartphone with a dark VPN Shield iconWhile updating your privacy preferences is a good way to keep your information in Instagram secure, you likely spend much of your time online in other apps and on websites where your information may not be so secure. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can safeguard your privacy online, without sacrificing convenience or speed as you surf.

VPNs also provide a way to work around geographical restrictions placed by video streaming services and other restrictions based on where you live or work. To choose the best VPN provider for your internet endeavors you can take a look at our top 5 of the best services.

Finally, Instagram probably isn’t the only social media platform you use. To inform yourself about your online security also check out our articles on the privacy settings in Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, and WhatsApp. It is good to keep in mind what the consequences of your posting behavior might be.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.