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.

  • Brandon

    “Caught B. Ingdumb”…love it! Let those stay in approval purgatory.

    • Forever and ever… Or block them. You can stay in public mode and still block users. Instagram private mode really just functions to let you know who is following you. It doesn’t keep your photos all that private.

      • Sarhsk

        why cant i delete any pf my photos??

        • You can delete your photos. In the Instagram app, go to Profile (on the lower left). Click Your Photos. Select the photo you wish to delete. Tap the small ellipsis (three dots) icon under the photo, (it’s to the right of Like and Comment). You’ll have the option to: Delete, Share post, Copy share URL, or Email photo.

          • Instagram app update: The process for deleting comments has changed. While viewing the photo with the comment you wish to delete, tap “comment” as if you were going to comment. Then scroll to the comment you wish to delete and swipe to the left. You’ll see the red “delete” button appear: tap it. You can delete any comments on your photos.

            • Tico_18

              Emily,
               
              can you delete a user from instagram? I’m not talking about blocking but deleting.  Off my instagram.  If I don’t want to see their pictures or posts.
               
              Thank you

  • Michael

    Great post. One question- when I want to share an Instagram photo on FB, is there a way to only share it with a custom group of friends? I can’t seem to find this. I can only seem to post to everyone, as opposed to picking my custom list that I have created in the past.

    • Michael, from what I know: You can edit whether a post goes to your Facebook wall (default) or to a Facebook page (if you manage any pages). This setting can be adjusted in Profile -> Sharing Settings. Click Facebook and you can login to any Facebook account. The Photo Destination is where you can choose the default wall or a page you manage. You can only choose one at a time.

      There are no privacy controls for certain Facebook friends or lists built into Instagram sharing. You could post to another social network, such as Twitter, then copy the tweet and share it to Facebook afterward, where you could adjust the privacy settings. I wonder how much work it would take for Instagram to add this functionality to their next update.

      Another option is to post the photo, then when it is posted to Instagram, click on the small dots to the right under the picture (right of like/comment). Click “Copy Share URL.” It will copy to your iPhone. Then post on Facebook through an app or Facebook.com this URL and adjust privacy settings there.

      Hope this helps.

  • Guinnes4

    How do I remove pics of somebody I followed from my feed

    • If it’s someone you are currently following, you cannot remove their pictures from your feed. If you once followed them but no longer do, their pics will show in the feed in their chronological position until new ones take their place as time passes.

  • KAil

    Is there a way to protect your photos from being copied and reused for other people’s benefit? Because It has happened to me twice now and I dont see how that’s fair

    • Hi Kailey, unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent this kind of theft. You can put your copyright (with your name or username) as a watermark on the image using a photo editing iPhone app like Iris or PictureShow to add text. Someone could edit that out but at least that makes it harder to simply copy and paste your work and may be a deterrent by putting them through the extra step of erasing the artist’s signature.

      If you catch someone stealing your work and publishing it, comment with a link to your original Instagram post and ask them to stop plagiarizing.

  • Hailey

    is there a way so that people can’t search you through their contacts? 

    • Hi Hailey,

      Great question. I did some experimenting to answer. I will write a full post with my findings in the next week, with detailed scenarios for when you are and aren’t searchable by certain parameters. For now:

      The only way to prevent a user from finding you when they search on Instagram through their phone contacts is to register your Instagram account with no information the other person has about you, including any of the following: full name, cell phone number, email address, associated Twitter username or Facebook profile. For social profiles, omit them or use dummy/secondary social profiles (if you have second profiles or care to connect Twitter and Facebook with IG).

      Use a name that doesn’t match their contact entry for you and an email address that the other person doesn’t know. If the other person has stored in their contacts: 1) your name or handle as it appears on your Instagram account; 2) your Instagram account email address (the one you signed up with); or 3) your cell phone number associated with the IG account, you can’t prevent them from finding you via contacts search.

      You don’t have to associate your cell number. You can alter your name and IG handle a bit by using initials or a variation/nickname. You can register the IG account under a different email address the other person doesn’t know. It’s possible to change your current IG account email address. You can create a free extra email address on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. just for purposes like this (don’t share it with anyone).

      Blocking a user while you are still on public mode disables them from being able to search for you in the Instagram app. Remember they can still see your photos online if you have posted any links to them (via a tweet, for example).

      What is the main purpose you wish to use Instagram for? Do you want the ability to post your pictures to Facebook and/or Twitter?

  • Ace

    If I block someone, will they know they’ve been blocked?

    • If you block someone on Instagram, they won’t be directly notified. But they can find out you’ve blocked them if they:

      A) Notice your photos no longer appear in their feed, then try to search for your profile and are unable to find you.

      B) They try to @ mention you in a comment and your username doesn’t pop up. They can still post in a comment or caption @ you but it won’t tag you (actively link to you).

      Note that blocking someone on IG isn’t the same as on Facebook; you can still see their Likes and comments on photos (including your own). They don’t become totally invisible to you.

    • Ace, they won’t be directly notified. You will become invisible to them. But they will know you’ve blocked them if they try to search for your username or to search for you from their contacts or social media friends — you won’t appear. The person will be unable to find you from the Instagram iPhone app.

      However, if you are posting IG photos online, such as in tweets or Facebook posts or to Tumblr, the person may be able to see the photos there and then realize you are still an active account, just that you’ve blocked them.

  • Is it possible to make my followers and followed instagramers invisible to some people that follow me?

    I mean, there are some people i follow, that i cannot see theyr foloowers/followed list.
    ]
    Thx and great post

    • Short answer: Not unless you block them.

      Cláudio, if you’re following someone, you should be able to see their followers and followed lists. What do you see when you look at the person’s profile on the Instagram iPhone app? Even if someone is on private mode, on their profile, in the three boxes at the top, you should see their name, number of photos, number of followers, and number they’re following.

      It’s not possible to make these lists invisible to someone unless you block the person. Let me know the username of someone who has followers and followed Instagramers invisible as you say so that I can test this out.

      • Anna

        hi!! Emily thank you for your help and of course for all the questions helping with it! i have the same question. I follow this user: “holdenouterwear” and when i go to see his followings, i get this: “No users found”. How did he do it? Do you have any idea how he did this? Thank you in advance. Anna

        • Mrsceo4321

          This is the same question i need answered

  • Polly

    Hi. If I post to twitter, would someone without the app then be able to access all my photos including my list of followers/followees?

    • Hey Polly. Yes, if you post an Instagram picture to Twitter, someone without the app could view your photos (assuming your Twitter account is public). Even if your Twitter is private, it is possible that somehow a person could find a link to your IG photo online: even someone who is a private IG user cannot protect their photos from being viewed online if you share them online (such as on Twitter or Tumblr).

      Here’s an example: I am a private user on Instagram (username emilybinder). I have connected my secondary Twitter account, @adoreajarbakery:disqus, to my IG. I posted this IG photo to Twitter, and here’s what you can see as a public viewer:

      Tweet (posted from within IG): https://twitter.com/#!/adoreajarbakery/status/149620323661250561

      Link in the tweet to IG photo: http://instagr.am/p/ahkXy/

      By clicking the link in the tweet, you can see that picture and my abbreviated Instagram profile. Under my username, you can see how many photos and followers I have, but not how many I’m following. Additionally, you can’t see the usernames, just the number.

  • Hkblack96

    Is there a way to see a list of the users who you are following but are not following you back?

    • Simply: No.

      Technically: Yes, but it involves accessing the Instagram API and using some code. I will write a post about the details for doing this in the near future.

    • Monkeynani19

      yes, intsafriends.

  • sarag g.

    hi i accidentally “liked” a picture of someone and immediately unliked it, changed my user name and blocked them. will they still see the notification that the picture was liked? and would my first user name be used in the notification? 

  • Msm6000

    Is there a way to view all photos my username is referenced in  i.e.  @myusername is in the photo comments?

    • Yes, but you’ll need to access the Instagram API to do this. I’m going to write a post about it in the next week. It’s not too difficult but a bit of back end work.

  • willeycoyote

    Hey.. I saw someone ask this question but just for a quicker answer, can people see who you’re following/who’s following you if they are blocked? Stalker alert… 

    • Quick answer: No.

      Let’s call the person you blocked Jane. If Jane looks at the profile of someone she knows is following you, even then, you will not show up on their followers list. You become invisible on IG.

      But that doesn’t mean the person can’t see your IG photos online at all… see below: https://www.emilybinder.com/fifteenthlife/instagram-privacy-tips-and-faq/#comment-410119851

      • willeycoyote

        Okay. Because I have this person blocked and they seem to still find my followers. I don’t link my instagram to any site online anymore, so I’m just making sure I did disappear ! LOL 🙂

  • Sr103756

    So basically, blocking on Instagram is the same as on Facebook in the sense that they can’t have anything to do with you. Is that correct?

    • Yes.
      The only difference is that they could potentially see your photos online (outside of the iPhone app) if you post a link to them in a public tweet or Tumblr post etc.
      But they cannot interact with you, see you or your actions, or even see your name on Instagram – so you are basically invisible to them on the app.

  • Liljamaicanpicny

    If my profile is private, if someone likes or comments one of my photos will that photo show up on their feeds and to others that’s following them?

  • Kcecilio

    I would like to change my Instagram profile name.
    I’ve been tagged in comments in the past. If people click on those links will it take them to my new profile name or say “user not found”?

    Also, will all my followers automatically be transferred to my new profile name?

    • Good question. Short answers:1. “I’ve been tagged in comments in the past. If people click on those links
      will it take them to my new profile name or say ‘user not found’?” Yes. Where your old username has been tagged (@ mentioned) in past comments, clicking your old username will generate a “user not found” message.2. “Also, will all my followers automatically be transferred to my new profile name?” Yes, your followers will be transferred to your new username.Basically, comments you have posted will convert. Comments by others containing @mentions of your old username will not.Why:IG stores your account as a unique user number. It never changes and it is also associated with a username for display purposes within the app. If you change your username, any previous comments you posted would also reflect the change in username.
      When you make a request on the API by opening a photo, IG pulls up the comments by first looking up user numbers, then displaying their associated usernames. Think of the name as a pretty mask for your user number. You can change masks.
      Even if you change your username, your posted comments remain “sticky” and are still associated with your profile. However, @mentions (comments) are stored by IG as text (not numbers), so if a comment contains “@oldname” it will not change the text to “@newname” nor will it link to the newname profile when clicked. The click generates a “user not found” message.Your new username will keep the same settings, followers, and followed users as your old one.You still have the ability to remove any previous comments you made.

  • Polkadotrobotxxx

    Hi! I have some people that I used to follow on my feed, but then I blocked them but they’re still on my feed. How do I take them off?!

    • Polkadotrobotxxx

      FYI: I put my photo’s to private, logged out, logged back in, refreshed my phone and it STILL has my old followers on my feed. Reply ASAP!

      • Try unfollowing the people. First unblock them, then unfollow, then block again. They may appear in your feed from when you were following them until time passes and their photos are pushed to the bottom. Fully close the app and reopen it. Additionally, when asking for help, a “please” goes a long way. Good luck.

        • Polkadotrobotxxx

          Oh sorry about the please. I could’ve sworn I put please. Anyways, it didn’t work. Got any other suggestions please? It’s because the only person I want to follow is my brother because I’m going to start posting pictures of myself, and I blocked my followers which made them stop following me, then I put my pictures to private, and then I unblock and unfollowed all those users. Please help if that helped you!
          Thank you
          ~PolkaDotRobotxxx

          • Polkadotrobotxxx

            Oh yeah but the problem is I don’t want them on my feed cause each of them has like 200 photos. Please help D:

          • Hi Polkadot,

            Try this test: Follow someone. Look at your feed and make sure you see at least one of their photos there. Then click the user’s name from that photo in your feed: Unfollow them. Go back to your feed and refresh it by clicking the circular arrow in the upper right. The user’s photo should no longer appear. Whether you are a private user or not won’t affect this test.

            Let me know if this is correct: You currently only follow your brother. He is also following you and he does not have you blocked. Photos posted by users you have recently unfollowed are still showing up in your feed even when you refresh the feed and log out of IG, close the app, and log back in?

            P.S. You indicated you don’t want to follow these users because they have 200 photos. I’m assuming you mean that these users post very frequently and clog your feed, right? They should disappear once you unfollow them.

            • Mathis Chrystal

              Is there anyway u can block someone from seeing your followers and who you follow?

            • Polkadotrobotxxx

              Well, I tried that a long time ago, but I still have the followers OLD photos, like one month two month 1 hour ago, like that. But if it’s new it goes away. I’ve logged off and on back and forth, still the same thing. Thank you for helping me though with your effort! If you ever do find a way please tell me!

              P.S. Sorry for replying so late, I totally forgot about this. And, your right about the 200 photo thing, except most of them don’t disappear. D; 

              •  How many photos has your brother ever posted? Is he the only person you’re following?

  • mikey

    Hi there, for some reason the likes that show up in my news don’t appear on the pictures themselves in my feed. Just wondering if you might have some insight into this. I tried closing and reopening the app and still no luck. Thanks for any advice!

    • Hey. It sounds the user may have unliked your photo between the time you saw the like notification and you clicked on the actual photo to view the like. The other possibility is that they liked your photo then blocked you. Overall, if a user likes your photo, it will show on the photo unless they blocked you or have unliked it. How many likes are there on the photo in question?

  • scmc4191

    Can you “@” mention someone in a comment on IG if you are not following them?

    • Yes, you can. It does not matter if you are following the other user or if they are following you or not. If you @ mention a user in a comment, their username in the posted comment will be an active link to their profile and they will be notified that you mentioned them. The only scenario where this won’t happy is if the other user has blocked you. A blocked user can try to @ mention you in a comment, but it will not be an active link to your profile nor will you be notified.

      • scmc4191

        I was wondering because when I wrote the @ and wasn’t following them, a link for their profile didn’t come up, but it should?

        •  Yes, it should, unless they have blocked you or they are a private user.

  • Mischieviousdarling

    If someone follows me, and I delete my account – will they still see my photos on their feed??

    • They might. While they were following your active account, your photos appeared in their feed. If they don’t refresh their feed and if other users’ new photos don’t push yours down to the bottom, yes, the user could see your photos in their feed. However, IG refreshes the feed anytime you click to view it. Additionally, if you delete your account, even if the user clicked “Load more” at the bottom of their feed all the way back to the time of your last post, that photo would no longer appear.

      • Mischieviousdarling

        Thankyou!

  • erika

    why cant i see picture my followers have liked or people they started following ?

    • Erika, you should be able to. Click News on the bottom of the Instagram app. Select Following from the top (instead of You). You should see the likes and actions (e.g. following another user) or events such as making it to the popular page for the users you follow who A) are public users, B) are private users but have you as a follower, or C) do not have you blocked. Their actions will be grouped in chronological batches, appearing in order next to the actions/batch actions of other users you follow.

  • Gern Blanston

    Do other users or followers see your # search terms in their newsfeeds?

  • Anonymous

    Dear Emily, your posts and answers are very interesting and thank you for shearing all this stuff with us. I have a question that I still cannot answer reading all the above and this question is : Can I make myself totally “invisible” on Instagram, meaning that ANY new subscribers cannot “see” my username even if they know someone that follws me? For example, if my friend is following 4 persons and one of them is me (and he has a “public” account), is there any way a new subscriber could only ‘see” 3 of them in the followers list an not see my name? Thank you in advance for your time and effort and keep up the good work 🙂

    • Short answer: No. If you have ever posted a comment or liked a photo on Instagram, even if you are on private mode, anyone who views the photo where you have either commented or liked it can see your username and tap it to view your profile. If you’re private, your photos won’t be shown there. If you’ve never interacted with anyone or any photo on IG, then you can be effectively invisible if you’re on private mode and have no information on your profile that is tied to your identity. This is unusual, however.

      If you want to be totally invisible, create a dummy IG account where you use all fake information: a secret email address that no one else knows, no real names or connected social media accounts, and do not interact on IG by liking or commenting on any photo.

  • Clover44

    Is there anyway for someone to see a picture if you are private and have no followers? I want to instagram pics for my own enjoyment- there are some of me in a bathing suit that I would not want others seeing!

    • Not easily. You’ll be pretty safe.

      If you want to be extremely private I’d recommend the following: Sign up for IG with a username name you don’t really want with a fake email address (IG doesn’t verify). Then change the user name to what you do want after setting your
      profile to private (pick a user name that is not identifyingly
      descriptive). For password retrieval purposes (if needed) you could
      change the fake email to your actual email. 
      All that aside, even if someone knew your username, once you were set to private there is no way anyone could construe a URL to get
      to your photos. Although it’s true that each IG photo has a live share
      URL regardless of privacy settings it’s still 99.9%
      private.

  • Dancingstarjj

    can my followers see my comments on other peoples pictures?

    •  Yes. The only people who can’t are those you’ve blocked.

  • NCABADDEST

    i accidently commented on my own picture & it won’t let me deleted it. i tried deleting it on every website but it keeps saying “erur” or when i try it on an iPhone, it says the same. any tips on being able to fix that?

  • Awayhyper@aol.com

    Can a person tell if you’ve viewed their photos?

  • dregan01

    Just yesterday i heard about a website that deltes ghost followers from Ig. Like people who havent liked or commented on your stuff in a certain number of days will be forced to unfollow. Do you know anything about this?

    • Hi, I haven’t heard of a website devoted specifically to deleting ghost followers on Instagram like Tweetspinner does for Twitter. However, there is a feature of Stati.gram that lets you prune ghosts manually: Visit the section called
      statistics=>my community=>engagement=>No interaction at all
      recently. You can login to http://statigr.am/ for free and view lots of metrics and stats about your IG account.

  • AS

    I blocked someone on instagram that was my friend previously. Will she and her followers still be able to see my previous comments on (deleted persons) past IG photos?

    • Yes. In fact, you can block someone and still be following them. To make comments go away, they need to be manually deleted regardless of the current following status.

  • TTownSouth

    Why are someone else’s photos showing up in my feed?  I don’t follow them?  Strange?

  • E.

    Can someone read my bio if my profile is set to private?