How To Make the Most Of Instagram’s Privacy Settings

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Facebook owns Instagram. If you’re an Instagram user, your personal information is used to streamline the functions of the apps, target ads, and assist with various other business purposes.

Although Instagram has fewer privacy controls than Facebook, there are some settings you can change to improve your privacy.

You can’t keep Instagram’s data from being shared with its parent company, but you can control how it’s used. You can limit the app’s access to location data, limit your posts to a specific audience, and adjust some targeted advertising, among other things.

Although most Instagram users access the platform through the app, some of the platform’s privacy settings are only accessible through a browser.

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Instagram’s Location Privileges Should Be Removed

Giving Instagram access to your location allows you to tag your posts with your location automatically. When you use the Explore tab, which allows you to browse posts from people you don’t follow, Instagram uses your location to show you more relevant content.

However, because your location data is linked to your Facebook profile, it can be used to tailor ads to you on other platforms as well. If you don’t want the app to access your device’s GPS, you can easily disable it. If you want to tag posts later, you can always turn it back on or manually enter your location.

Other information, such as your IP address and WiFi connection, can still be used by Facebook and Instagram to determine your location, but revoking GPS permissions will reduce the accuracy of the data.

Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Instagram > Never on an iPhone.

On an Android phone, do the following:

Go to Settings > Location > App access to location > Instagram > Deny on your phone. (These instructions are for a Google Pixel; some devices may differ slightly.) Location settings are sometimes found under the Permissions menu in other Android versions.)

Read: How To Make WhatsApp’s Privacy Settings Work For You

Posts should only be shared with your friends.

Instagram makes your account visible to anyone who uses the app by default.

You can, however, make your account private. Then, before they can see your posts and videos, they must send you a request to follow you.

According to Instagram, turning on the setting will not affect anyone who already follows you. They’ll still be able to see what you’ve written.

On the app, go to your profile by clicking the bottom-right icon > Open the menu in the top-right corner > Settings > Privacy > Toggle the Private Account switch on.

Lessen the Personality of Ads

You can’t completely avoid targeted advertising, but there are a few tools that can help you limit how Instagram uses your data for ads if you know where to look.

Facebook and Instagram have a setting that prevents them from using data sent by third parties for advertising purposes. The other will prevent Facebook from showing you ads on non-Facebook websites based on your activity on Facebook’s services. You’ll see the same number of ads in both cases, but Facebook claims that some categories of your data will be off-limits.

The catch is that you must change the second setting on Facebook rather than Instagram. According to Stephanie Chan, a company spokesperson, the company will apply the change across all of its services as long as it can match your various accounts together.

The second set of instructions is for a web browser, but the settings can also be adjusted in the Facebook mobile app. If you aren’t a Facebook user, you won’t be able to change the second set.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Open the top-right menu and select Settings > Ads > Data About Your Activity From Partners. Turn off the toggles for all of the accounts on the list.

When using a computer, type:

Log in to Facebook > Click the downward arrow in the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Settings > Select Ads > Ad Settings > Ads Shown Off Facebook from the menu on the left > Turn the switch off.

(Updates to Facebook’s advertising settings are currently being rolled out.) On some accounts, the last few steps may differ slightly, but these instructions will get you there in any case.)

Limit the number of ads you see on specific topics.

Ads make up the majority of Instagram’s revenue, and there’s no way to stop them. However, you can opt-out of ads on a few specific topics. You can tell Instagram you don’t want to see ads about alcohol, parenting, pets, social issues, elections, or politics by going to the ad topic preferences menu.

On Facebook accounts, the same options are available. In both cases, the company cannot guarantee that you will not see ads related to these topics in the future, but it’s worth a shot. These options won’t do much to protect your privacy, but they’re one of a few options for making your social media feed healthier and more enjoyable.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Open the top-right menu > Settings > Ads > Preferences for Ad Topics > Select the topic you want to avoid > Save your money.

Defend Your Account Against Hackers

Multifactor authentication (MFA), also known as two-factor authentication, is one of the simplest ways to improve your security. It’s compatible with various services; you might already be using it for your email or bank account.

If you enable it, Instagram will send you a code that you can use to verify your identity whenever you log in from a new browser or device.

Experts agree that text messages aren’t the most secure multi-factor authentication method, so Instagram will allow you to set it up with an app on your phones, such as Google Authenticator or Duo Mobile, for an added boost.

With MFA enabled, only people who have access to both your phone and your password will be able to log in to your account.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Select Settings > Security > Two-Factor Authentication from the top-right menu. Let’s get started.

Limit the amount of information you share with other businesses.

You can link Instagram to third-party apps like VSCO, Sprout Social, and Later, which some people use to schedule posts, edit photos, and track their followers’ activity.

Some of your data is accessible to apps connected to your Instagram account. The more apps you connect, the more security and privacy risks you expose yourself to. Third-party apps played a significant role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the subsequent data leak that led to the demise of Google+, Google’s social media network.

Instagram makes it simple to see what kind of data and permissions you’ve given to other apps, as well as to revoke access to apps you’re not comfortable with or don’t use.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Select Settings > Security > Apps and Websites > Active from the top-right menu. Tap Remove next to a specific app.

Decide who has permission to send you messages.

Instagram messages are an important part of the platform. Anyone you follow can send you a message, but when someone you don’t follow tries to contact you, their messages are automatically routed to a “message requests” tab.

You can read messages in the requests folder without the other person knowing, which allows you to get a sneak peek before deciding to start a conversation.

You can, however, opt-out of receiving these messages entirely. You can also go the other way and send every message to the regular chat folder if you’re friends on Facebook but not Instagram.

Instagram allows you to customize how these messages are handled. You can choose different options for different types of people, such as friends of friends or people who haven’t followed you back.

On the mobile app:

Click the icon in the bottom right corner to go to your profile > Open the top-right menu and select Settings > Privacy > Messages > Tap and select how you want to be contacted for each potential connection.

Stop syncing your contacts with your phone.

Instagram employs a variety of methods to suggest new accounts for you to follow. If you’ve given Instagram permission to access your contacts, one method is to scan them on a regular basis.

It’s difficult to predict what a company will do with your contacts list once you give them access. According to several reports, including one published in 2018 by researchers at Princeton and Northeastern universities, Facebook used information from users’ address books to target their friends with ads.

It’s not too late to change your mind if you’ve given Instagram permission to scan your contacts.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Go to the top-right menu and select Settings > Account > Contacts Syncing > Turn the switch off.

However, this does not remove contacts from your Instagram account that the company has already uploaded. You can do this by using a computer to access Instagram.

Using a web browser on a computer:

Sign up for Instagram > To open the menu, click your profile picture in the top right corner > Settings > Manage Contacts > Delete All.

Recommended: Google Privacy Settings | How To Use Them

Don’t Make It Public That You’re Online.

Instagram introduced a feature a few years ago that allows users to see when they follow or message online. That might be useful for deciding when to send your favorite new meme to a friend, but seeing other users’ online status necessitates making yours public as well.

If that doesn’t seem like a good deal, you can disable the feature.

On the app, go to your profile by tapping the bottom-right icon > Open the top-right menu and select Settings > Privacy > Activity Status. Turn the switch off.

Limit Instagram’s ability to use your account to expand its network.

You may have noticed that when you follow a new account, Instagram suggests that you look at a few other similar users. In the opposite direction, Instagram will recommend your account to other users.

This is advantageous if you want to gain more followers, but you can also choose to make yourself more difficult to locate. To access the appropriate setting, you’ll need to use a browser rather than the app.

Using a web browser:

Sign up for Instagram > To uncheck the box for Similar Account Suggestions, click on your profile picture in the top right corner to open the menu > Profile > Edit Profile > Uncheck the box for Similar Account Suggestions.

Keeping Your Online Privacy Safe

Your personal information can leave a digital trail of where you go online, whether you’re on your phone or a laptop. Consumer Reports expert Thomas Germain explains how to protect your online privacy by hosting Jack Rico on the TV show “Consumer 101.”

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