woman taking iPhone picture of city for Instagram

Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ

Accidentally liked a picture on InstagramCheck out my post about privacy and notifications for liking and unliking on Instagram.

Some nuances to privacy settings are unclear on Instagram Help, so let’s shed some light. Skip to ii. Privacy below if you know enough about basic account management and third party tools.

Instagram of two dogs
Atlanta’s favorite startup mascots Coleman and Paloma at Strongbox West

i. Instagram FAQ

1. Can I have multiple usernames?
Yes. Each must be associated with a different email address.

2. How do I toggle between multiple Instagram accounts?
First, login to one account. Go to your profile and tap the gear icon (iPhone) or verticle three dot icon (Android) in the top right. Scroll down and tap Add Account. Enter your other username and password.

To switch between accounts you’ve added:
Go to your profile. Tap your username at the top. Tap the account you’d like to switch to.

3. Can I see Instagram pictures on a desktop/laptop or in my browser outside the app?
Yes, at instagram.com/USERNAME. Alternatively, users can directly share pictures to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and via direct message, text message, or email. If a user simply tweets a link to the IG picture, you can see the picture by clicking the link (it used to appear in twitter.com’s native display). However, you won’t be able to login and Like or comment when viewing IG pics shared to these other networks; the likes and comments would be native to those platforms. To like or comment within Instagram on your browser (not using the app), login to instagram.com.

4. Can I like and comment on Instagram pictures outside the app? How can I manage my Instagram account in a browser?
Yes. For both, the simplest way is to login at instagram.com.

Third Party Instagram Apps:

There are several third party Instagram services worth trying. Here are 7 great Instagram apps including Layout, Hyperlapse, and Latergramme (list created July 2015).

A. Check out Flow for looking and liking (not posting). It’s a sleek iPad and iPhone app with a layout and interface superior to Instagram’s. Bonus: it’s ad-free. Preview thumbnails allow you to swipe through an array of photos and videos. Standard IG features like clicking through to profiles, liking posts, and seeing posts that you’ve liked are there, plus you can bookmark what you’ve liked.

Unfortunately, due to Instagram’s API changes, Flow will most likely stop working on June 1, 2016. As I’ve been saying for years, Facebook will kill Instagram.

B. Ink361 (formerly Inkstagram) A webviewer for Instagram photos. Login with your Instagram credentials. You can do everything you can on the iPhone app except add new pictures.
Instgre.at_Insta-great-screenshot_emilybinder

5. How can I print my Instagram photos?
Try socialprintstudio.com (formerly Printstagram) or try the iPhone app PostalPix to print four-inch squares from your Instagram library for 30 cents each.

ii. Privacy Tips

Sweetwater Brewery Instagram picture
Years ago Instagram photos appeared natively within Twitter. No longer, unless you use IFTTT.

You can block any user. This means that even if they are following you, they will not see your photos in their feed, nor will your actions (commenting, liking) show up in their following feed. However, a blocked user can still see your photos in other ways:
1) If you’re public and you share an IG post to another social network where they can see your posts. For example, I was private on IG but I shared to Twitter when I uploaded this photo. Anyone could see this photo on Twitter, but only IG users who I have approved to follow me can A) view it natively in their IG feed, B) view it within the IG app, and C) like or comment.
2) If you’re public and they create another account.
3) If you’re private and you accept a new follower you don’t know, it could be the person you blocked.
4) And unfortunately, you have to remember that anything you post can always be captured on a screenshot and shared privately between other users.

Private mode

You can toggle “Private Account” on or off in your Profile settings.  (Tap the person icon on the bottom right of the app, then tap the gear icon in top right for Options.) Anyone who followed you while you were not in private mode will not be affected, but new followers will be in approval purgatory. More on viewing private photos online here.

pretty nails taking iPhone picture of city
Photo credit: Jay Wennington

Stalkers

If you are already private and still have a particular user you don’t want to have access, be wary of new followers. If an unfamiliar user has few pictures (less than 5-10), few legitimate followers, or bot or spam accounts interacting with their photos, this may be a fake account. Oh, and the obvious red flag is having no profile picture.

Tip: If you’re concerned about a stalker, save all of their email addresses in your phone contacts. When a new user joins IG with an email address you stored, IG announces, “Your friend (NAME) just joined Instagram.” Not knowing this, the stalker will assume that their fake profile is unbeknownst to you. Block.

Deleting comments on Instagram

You can delete others’ comments on your photos and any of your own comments. When viewing your photo, tap the talk bubble icon below the photo. If you slide your finger to the left over any comment, you’ll have the option to delete it. If you accidentally delete, you can tap to undo.

This blog is not affiliated with Instagram in any way. My knowledge is based on my own experience and experimentation.

Update 4/27/16: Due to time constraints, I’m no longer able to post individual answers to your questions, but if you comment below someone else from the community may answer your question.

Update 3/28/16: I’ve updated this post for Instagram version 7.19 for iOS

Update 8/27/12: Instagram 3.0 was released on 8/16/12. This app update introduced Photo Maps and greater privacy over the following and follower lists for private users (now these lists are not visible to non-followers). This post was originally published on 12/6/11 and the comments predating 8/16/12 reflect Instagram 2.0. I won’t go back and edit all the comments but I will answer in real time going forward.

Instagram_screenshot_photo_by_enda_ungu_emilybinder
This was the original featured image for this post when I first published it in 2011. #tbt …

Tip: CTRL + F keywords in the comments to see if your question has already been answered. Up-vote the comments that you care about the most.

  • Khosrow Abtahi

    if instagram is set on public, and someone follows will i be notified? Or they simply show as one of my followers.

    • You will be notified on your phone if you have Instagram notifications turned on (phone settings – notifications – Instagram). If not, you would still see the new follower noted in Instagram Activity – You.

      • Khosrow Abtahi

        thank you. one more question, if i block someone, and when i search for that person i still show on their following, without any follow/following box to the right. is that normal? or i should not show at all? Thank you

  • Nichole

    if someone was following me on instagram, then they block me, it still shows them following me like usual, and i know they can still see my photos if they search me, but my question is.. since they are technically still following me, are my photos still coming up on their newsfeed?

    • No, if they block you, your photos will not show in their newsfeed.

      • Hello kitty

        Hi..If this person just recently unfollow me and made me unfollow this person as well, and now they are sending me a follow request, however when I accept the request, it’s not coming in my newsfeed as this so and so person started following you, but that person’a name is already In my follower list.. However, I get request again as though I did not accept it earlier.. what’s the problem here? did this person blocked me and forgot to unblocked b4 requesting again?

  • Hello kitty

    Hi..If this person just recently unfollow me and made me unfollow this person as well, and now they are sending me a follow request, however when I accept the request, it’s not coming in my newsfeed as this so and so person started following you, but that person’a name is already In my follower list.. However, I get request again as though I did not accept it earlier.. what’s the problem here? did this person blocked me and forgot to unblocked b4 requesting again? please reply as soon as possible.. tq

  • Bigz_2015

    I want to know whether if I like a photo of an account which is private, will my followers be able to see what i’ve liked on the activity tab of people that they are following?

  • Kristina Lekaj

    I changed the privacy setting on Instagram a lot of times to be honet and now I want to change it again but it is not possible. Will I be able to do it again as time passes by??

  • muzni

    Ive been following my friend for about a month,then at once i couldnt find him.and he was not able to search me too.there was a message in his account tht he had some ghost followers and they are removed. How can i follow my friend again. Its a big prob.pls give me a solution

    • On a computer (not mobile device), visit instagram.com and login. Then go to your friend’s profile. The URL format is: instagram.com/USERNAME (enter your friend’s username at the end). Follow.

      • muzni

        This method does not work. After I enter the url it shows as ‘Sorry,this page is not available’. Please find a solution for this problem.

  • Crystal

    How can I see who someone recently started following on ig? Their following list can’t be by most recent because I’m at the top of it.

    • Typically, if the list includes fewer than 200 users, it will be alphabetized. If greater than 200, it will display by most recent. If you’re at the top but you are not most recent, it sounds like the list may be alphabetical. If you let me know the username, I can take a look for you.

  • J-Man1212

    My profile is public yet I blocked someone who also has a public page. I checked their followers and I am still listed there. They can also like my pictures and comment. Any reason why if I blocked them??

  • Lisa

    Can anyone tell me if someone’s “following” list on Instragram is listed in order by how often they visit that person’s profile? I’d heard that Facebook is like that, so I assume IG is the same. No??

  • L duncan

    frıend post photo to facebook from ınstagram . So ı clıck the photo when to ınstagram account ı clıck follow turn green to followıng. but when ı log back ınto ınstagram user name ıs not found. was ı block after ı clıck followıng therefore ı can only see two photo and comments. I am block?

  • xxMCMXCI

    Question: Using the “find your friends in your contact list” I can’t find my friend through that. Does that mean the number is changed?
    Also
    if I have multiple accounts, do they show up on the the contact feed for someone else?

  • Sarah

    Hi there, I have a perplexing question. I set up an Instagram account, with the intention of remaining anonymous. My user name was just a made up, fanciful word, and I did not have my actual name anywhere in the account info. I did use my gmail email, which contains my actual name, but this was shown as private on my IG account. I did not add a phone number. I DID share one of my posts to my personal Facebook page, but I use a different email address for Facebook. My issue is, that I started getting notifications from Instagram that I had friends on Facebook that were on Instagram, and would I like to follow them. (I now know that IG and Facebook are owned by the same group.). I didn’t follow any of my friends, but one of my friends started following my IG account! I need to know, is there any chance that this friend knows that it is my IG account? I am really confused because I didn’t add anything personal, but if I was getting notifications on my IG account to follow my friends, was she getting the same, and would it have revealed anything else except my user name? I have since made this IG account private. I would have done that in the first place if I thought anyone I know could follow me. I did not link the IG account with Facebook. Any clarification on this would be soooo appreciated. Sarah.

  • Cute Doll

    Can some see my instagram account on their instagram account if they have my phone number? However i dont have their phone number in my phone?

  • Roger White

    I need to know something about instagram, recently I had found my daughter and snapped some screen shots of her it’s been 20 years and her mom keeped her from me, she move across the states. I found her instagram last week and it was not set to private but shortly after I found her and looked into what she was doing her profile became private and the same with her boyfriend. Is there a chance they know I was looking at the profiles? Or was it by chance that they went private so fast?

  • Anon

    I would like to know, if I have blocked a follower from my account, can another follower that is still friends with the blocked follower share my posts with the blocked follower & will the blocked follower see the posts? If this is possible, then blocking them was actually pointless.

    • Good question – many people ask this. Scenario A) If you are a public user, anyone could share a link to your post with someone else and they could see the post as long (as they were not logged in and blocked). Scenario B) If you’re private: the way that someone you’ve blocked could still see your photos is if one of your followers “shared” your posts by taking a screenshot and sending that. However, a link to your photo (“copy share URL”) wouldn’t work for someone you blocked, nor would it work for any user not following you.

      If you want to block someone from seeing your photos, you’re doing everything you can, but unfortunately there is no 100% surefire way to prevent someone from seeing your photos because one of your followers could either show this blocked person the photos on their phone or via sending a screenshot. This may be unlikely but it is possible, so I recommend that you don’t post anything very sensitive. Hope this helps!

  • Jess

    On other peoples Instagram, it’s showing that I’m following someone who I’ve recently blocked. When I look at who I’m following on my profile, that person doesn’t appear as if I’m following them. How can I fix this?

  • A

    I viewed someones video on Instagram but I do not follow them, will they be able to know I viewed it? This is going to really mess up my stalking abilities if so… haha.

    • No, they will not know you viewed their video. A video’s view count is visible to anyone who can see the post, but the usernames of people who viewed the video are unknown.

  • lilou__b

    Is there a way from looking at someone’s profile to know if they are following me? I can see if i am following them, but not the other way round?

  • swtpretzel

    I just noticed while looking at my followers list the word “following” showed under a few peoples names but not everyone I was following… What does this mean?

    • If you are looking at your followers and across from a username, you see a white box with “follow” instead of a green box with a checkmark and “following,” this means you are not following that user. It’s possible you were once following them but they blocked you. (If you block then unblock a user, this is a way to force them to unfollow you.)

      If you tap “follow” then you request to follow them. If they are public, Instagram will allow you to follow in one tap (unless you’re blocked, in which case you cannot follow). If they’re private, your follow request await their approval.

  • Shana Lines

    When a photo in my browse feed say “1 day ago, based on profile you visited” does 1 day ago mean I visited the profile 1 day ago or that the photo was posted 1 day ago?

    • I’ve never seen “based on profile you visited” – but I would bet this refers to how long ago the photo was posted. Can you provide more detail? Are you viewing in the iPhone app or elsewhere? Is this a user you are following? Here is how it looks to me when I view a photo posted 1 day ago.

  • Jozi

    What does it mean on Instagram when a photo on your explore page is based on “similar to accounts you interact with”

    • Instagram recommends photos that its algorithm deems similar in content or style to the accounts that you follow, comment on, or like. E.g., if you tend to like pictures of dogs, it will show posts of dogs and associated subjects, perhaps artisanal dog biscuits.

  • tran

    are there any apps that tell you who visits your instagram ( followers and non-followers) and how many time they do so?

  • Somesh narayan

    What to do when u accidentally deny someone whom u had requested to follow and now cannot follow them back?
    Everytime i click on follow the request does not get transmitted.

    • Once you deny a follow request, that person needs to request to follow you again. You can’t undo the denial. What do you mean you cannot follow them back – what exactly happens when you try to follow them, where in the app are you doing it, and are they a private user?

  • Vanessa

    Question….if someone blocked me on Instagram and we follow a lot of the same people and like a lot of the same pictures will my posts still show up on their explorer page as “similar to accounts you interact with”? Also, my account is not private.

    • No. If they blocked you, they won’t see your activity on their explorer page regardless of you being private or public.

      • Anis

        I’m not sure how to use this website but if I block someone on ig how can I completely get rid off them, so they’re un searchable

  • Danielle

    So I saw someone’s profile that said they are private all I can see is there picture I can’t see how many follows they have or anything it’s all blank does that mean I’m blocked

  • Aliyah

    With the Instagram videos now showing how many views a video has, can the uploader of the video see who viewed their video and how many times?

  • Sonia Agrawal

    Why does someone elses name pop up when I want to tag my friend on an instagram post although that particular person doesnt follow me and i dont follow them too. I also do not search their names.

  • Shimona Arora

    Why does it show that followed by xyz under my name when I open a picture’s likers that I have also liked ?