What Does Instagram Know About Me?

Instagram app on smartphone. Picture of man with bag over his head looked at by magnifying glass
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Summary: What Does Instagram Know About Me?

Instagram knows a lot about you. The information Instagram collects about you is used to build a profile about you. Instagram uses this information to show personalized ads to users.

Do you want to better protect your privacy on Instagram? Follow the tips below:

  • Adjust your privacy and security settings.
  • Use a VPN for more online anonymity and privacy. ExpressVPN is an excellent VPN we can recommend.
  • Delete your Instagram account.

Do you want to know exactly what Instagram knows about you and what Instagram does with this information? Then read the full article below.

Instagram has around one billion monthly active users and is one of the most popular and fastest growing social networking sites in the world. As part of Facebook, Instagram collects a lot of data about you. Something that may not surprise you. But what exactly does Instagram know about you? And how do you protect your privacy?

Anyone who has a closer look into Instagram’s privacy and security settings will soon find out that Instagram, your followers and the accounts you follow know a lot about you. Maybe you’ve never checked these settings before. Then it’s advisable to go through them step by step, to see if your settings are correct.

In this article we’ll tell you what Instagram knows about you and give you tips on how to improve your privacy on Instagram. The amount of data Instagram has about you might well surprise you.

Instagram is Watching You

Do you ever get that feeling in a crowd of people that someone is watching you? Every time you look around you catch someone just as they look away. Of course, that could be a coincidence. And they might think you are watching them based on how often you look over to see if they are watching you. But when the coincidences happen too often, you might be right to be suspicious.

This happens so regularly on apps like Instagram, you might not even notice it anymore. You go online searching for a new pair of headphones. Later when you open Instagram, there’s an advertisement for the very headphones you were looking at earlier. Or you click on an ad in Instagram, only to have an ad from the same company or for a similar product pop up on Facebook later. It’s like someone is watching you, but you can’t see them.

Instagram earns money by selling targeted ads. The sums involved are enormous and Instagram’s annual advertising revenue is steadily increasing. In 2019, Instagram accumulated more than $9 billion in advertising revenue in the United States. The social media platform is projected to generate more than $18 billion in annual ad sales in 2021.

Instagram Is Comparing Notes About You

Remember when the new kid in school showed up? You and your friends would get together to compare notes about what each other knew about them. Instagram does the same thing. Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger all share information about you with each other. Every hashtag on Instagram is compared with likes on Facebook. These are compared with messages you send through Messenger. Together they build a detailed profile of who you are.

Instagram also collects information from their advertising partners and other app developers. Facebook offers the option to log in to other sites through their app. This is a convenient way of avoiding coming up with a new password to remember. It also gives Facebook and Instagram access to information about you through that site. So, when you visit that site, Instagram is watching you. Click on a link, and Instagram knows. Use this for apps and Instagram notices how frequently you use the app, and how long you stay on.

How Does Instagram Know Your Location?

Like the stalker that always seems to know where you are, Instagram knows your location. Even if you adjust your privacy options to limit your location data, Instagram is paying attention to where you are. Instagram can pinpoint your location through nearby Bluetooth emitters, Wi-Fi access points, or GPS location. The app can even use what is visible through your camera or in the background of photos. This isn’t the paranoid ramblings of some guy in a tin-foil hat. Instagram’s data policy is clear and available to anyone who wants to take the trouble to actually read it.

Instagram knows your mobile carrier, your phone number, and your IP address. This information can be used to know your location with reasonable accuracy. Instagram keeps track of that information and comparing it to a map program. By doing so, Instagram can know where you live, where you work, your favorite places to shop, where your kids go to school, and more.

Instagram Uses Your Location History For Marketing

Visit an outdoors equipment shop and Instagram knows you may be looking to take a camping trip soon. You can expect a relevant ad soon.

Visit a new medical specialist and advertisers are alerted to your medical condition.

Take your dog to the vet, and Instagram may show ads for products of interest to pet owners.

These are just a few examples that show that your location history is being used by Instagram for marketing purposes.

Eavesdropping For Targeted Marketing?

To be fair, Facebook forcefully denies using your device’s microphone to listen to your conversations. But there are many credible reports, well documented reports, from people who suggest otherwise. Many report having a conversation about a product, and then seeing an ad show up for the product soon after.

Yes, these reports may be a coincidence. Perhaps they did a search for the product online earlier and forgot about it.

If these reports are not accurate, the conclusion may be even more disturbing. It would imply Instagram knew from your profile alone exactly when you would be interested in a product.

What Instagram Can Piece Together from Your Data

Visiting a store, whether online or in person, can provide Instagram with valuable insight. The types of products you may be interested in buying, and when helps to better target ads. Instagram pulls together all their considerable information on you and creates a complete picture of who you are. It is this complete picture that allows Instagram to make billions of advertising dollars.

By keeping track of websites you visit, Instagram builds on your profile. They get this information either by clicking on a link in Instagram or by visiting a website that partners with Facebook and Instagram. Visit FoxNews.com and Instagram adds to their profile of your political leanings. Visit a site on meditation and Instagram adds another piece of the puzzle to your religious beliefs. Search for sports scores for a team and your interests are updated.

Instagram bases your profile on the information available to them as you use their service. They know your clothing preferences, your gender, age, taste in food, and likely your sexual preferences. Instagram probably knows things about you that your closest friends would be surprised to learn.

Well-known YouTuber Safiya Nygaard tried buying items Instagram recommended to her to find out how the algorithms work. It is interesting to see how Instagram interprets her activity on their platform.

How To Download Your Instagram Account Data?

Do you want to download everything you’ve done on Instagram? Follow the steps below to get your own data from Instagram:

  1. Go to instagram.com/download/request/.
  2. Through this page you can retrieve the data. You get to see the screen below:Printscreen copy download Instagram
  3. Fill in your email address where you’d like to receive your download link and click “Next”.
  4. Fill in your Instagram password and click “Request download”.

If you request a copy, a zip-file will be sent to your email address within 48 hours. It contains all your Instagram data, including the photos and videos you’ve uploaded, comments, likes, followers, people you follow and so on.

What Does Instagram Do With My Data?

As discussed earlier in this article, Instagram collects your data in order to be able to show you personalized advertisements (targeted marketing).

Instagram doesn’t keep all this information to itself. They aggregates your information with millions of other users, and sells it to third-parties. This can be advertisers, researchers, vendors, law enforcement, and more. This information doesn’t personally identify you by default. But users can give Instagram permission to share personal information with third parties.

If you ever clicked “agree” to something you didn’t read very well, you may be allowing Instagram to share your personal information with third-parties. Even if you revoke that permission later, your data is already out there.

While many of those who receive shared information from Instagram have reasonable privacy policies, many do not. They may in turn share your information with others. Third-parties that hold your information may not always have the highest security as well.

While Instagram must maintain strict data security or risk public backlash, a company you have never heard of faces much less risk if their security exposes your information.

Your Privacy is Worth Guarding

There is nothing evil about Instagram using the information they gather on you to make sure the ads you see are for products you want to buy. In fact, many people appreciate the convenience of targeted ads. However, most people are quite disturbed to learn how much information apps like Instagram can collect on users.

Wondering how you can better protect your privacy on Instagram? Here are a few tips.

Manage Privacy And Security Settings On Instagram

Instagram has several privacy settings that you can easily adjust yourself. It is advisable to critically review these settings and adjust them if desired.

Private Account

If you haven’t adjusted your settings, everyone can see your photos and videos. Don’t like this idea? We explain below how you can change it.

  1. Open Instagram on your mobile and tap on your profile picture in the bottom right to go to your profile.
  2. Tap in the top right corner and then tap “Settings”.
  3. Then click on “Privacy”.
  4. At the top you will see your Private Account.
  5. Tap next to “Private Account” to make your account private. Your posted photos and videos will only be visible to people you have given permission to view. Your likes and dislikes will become private as well. When you made your account private, people will have to send you a follow request to see your posts, your followers list of your following list.

Activity status

Did you know that people following you can see when you last used the Instagram app? If you don’t want this, you have to click Privacy and Activity Status and then click to uncheck the box next to “Show Activity Status”.

Printscreen Instagram Activity Status

When you turn off the Activity Status, please be aware that you won’t be able to see other people’s activity status.

Instagram Story

Instagram makes it possible to share your photos and videos of the day in the form of a slideshow as Instagram Story. After 24 hours your story of the day disappears again. If you have ticked “Allow sharing” under Stories , people can share your Instagram Story as a chat message.

Do you want to prevent people from sharing your Instagram Stories with other? Select Settings and scroll down to the Privacy section. Tap “Story” and then scroll down to “Sharing”. Uncheck the box for Allow Sharing.

Printscreen Instagram Stories sharing

Keyword Filter

For the comments under your photos and videos, you can set up a keyword filter. To do so, tap Settings, then tap Privacy and Comments. Tap “Manual filter” to turn it on and enter specific words to filter out comments.

Instead of your own keywords, you can also set default keywords. These are keywords that are often reported by other users. Tap next to “Hide offensive Comments” to turn it off.

Automatic Or Manual Upload

Under the tab Privacy you will find the heading “Tags”. Here you can choose who can tag you in their photos or videos. Under the heading “Tagged posts” you can decide whether you want to add your photos and videos to your profile automatically or manually. By clicking on “Manually Approve Tags” you can find out in which photos and videos you have been tagged and how to remove those tags.

Your Instagram Account Details

Now we come to perhaps the most interesting part, Account Data. Go to Settings, then Security and then click Access Data. Here you will find all the information about your account, profile, connections, activity and interests.

Here you will find not only your current, but also your historical data, so you can see how often and when you changed your password. And have you changed your biotext more often? Then you will find your old versions here. Under  Account Activity you will find the dates and exact times when you logged on or off in the app. You cannot delete this log on/log off history. What you can – fortunately – delete is your search history.

Setting advertising preferences

Instagram, as discussed earlier, is an interesting medium for advertisers. Advertisers do need a Facebook page and company profile on Instagram. The ads you see as a user are based on your interests, which Instagram derives from your activity on Instagram.

At the very bottom of the Account Details tab you’ll find the heading “Ads”. Under “Ads interests” you’ll find your interests, which you can also customize here. Instagram also uses Facebook data. So your ad settings there affect the ads you see on Instagram.

Two-Factor Authentication

If you don’t find it safe enough to login with just your username and password, you can set up 2-factor authentication to receive a security code to confirm your login. An extra lock on the door. This makes it a lot harder for someone who wants to hack into your account. You can find the Two-Factor Authentication under Security.

Apps And Websites

We’re almost there, but not quite yet. Under Security you will find the option Apps and websites. Here you’ll find an overview of the apps you’ve granted access to your Instagram account. Here you can also revoke the authorization of applications.

Using the tips above, you can change your privacy settings and limit the information Instagram collects about you. While adjusting your privacy settings can restrict the data Instagram gathers on you, they will still have more than enough to build a comprehensive profile.

Use a VPN

One easy way to make your online experience with Instagram and other apps more anonymous is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN puts distance between you and the websites and apps you use so companies are not able to collect as much personal data. This helps protect your privacy and can provide other useful benefits such as unblocking restricted content online.

A VPN can also help you avoid restriction on internet access at work. There are many great VPN services out there that are incredibly easy to set up and use on a regular basis. If privacy is important to you, why not look at your options to safeguard your information online?

Delete Your Instagram Account

If you want Instagram to ‘forget’ everything about you, all you have to do is take drastic measures and permanently delete your Instagram account.

Do you want to delete your Instagram account? Then follow the steps below:

  1. Go to this page.
  2. Log in with the Instagram account you want to delete.Printscreen delete Instagram account
  3. Give a reason why you want to delete your Instagram account.
  4. Enter your password and choose “Delete my account permanently”.
  5. Your Instagram account is now permanently deleted.

Your photos, comments, likes, friendships and all other data are now permanently deleted and can no longer be restored. If you decide to create another Instagram account in the future, it’s not possible to sign in again with the same username.

Conclusion

Just like Google and Facebook, Instagram collects a lot of personal information about users. This information is used to create accurate profiles of users. Instagram uses these profiles to sell personalized ads.

Whatever you end up doing, it is important that you are aware of the information Instagram collects about you. This way you won’t be surprised if you get personalized ads.

You have several options for limiting the data Instagram collects about you. For example, it is important to take a critical look at your privacy settings to better protect and secure your account. In addition, using a VPN also increases security and privacy.

Are you done with Instagram’s data collection? Then you can always choose to delete your entire Instagram account.

What Does Instagram Know About You: FAQ

Do you have a question about Instagram and your privacy? Below you’ll find the most frequently asked questions. Check whether your question is listed and click on the question to read the answer.

Instagram knows more about you than you think. For example, Instagram has information about:

  • Your location
  • Your age
  • Your Gender
  • Your political preferences
  • Your shopping behavior
  • Your religious preferences
  • Your work
  • Your interests

Instagram uses personal information from users to create profiles. These profiles help sell personalized ads. Instagram earns a lot of money from this.

Follow the steps below to retrieve your own data from Instagram:

  1. Go to instagram.com/download/request/. On this page you can retrieve your data.
  2. Fill in your email address and click “next”.
  3. Fill in your password and click on “Request Download”.
  4. Within 48 hours you will receive an email with a file containing your photos, videos, likes, followers and so on.
Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cybersecurity analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Since 2014 he has been gaining international experience working with governments, NGOs, and the private sector as a cybersecurity and VPN expert and advisor.