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.

  • Guest

    hey emily quick question: so i recently unblocked someone and was trying to “re-follow” them. BUT when i pressed the “follow” button it didn’t say “approved” (their site is private).  Did that person block me? If that’s the case, I thought when you block people, you aren’t able to see anything of their IG since they are “invisible”.  I restarted the app and everything and the follow button isn’t working for me still :/ Help me please 🙂

    • It sounds like this person became a private user. They did not block you or you wouldn’t be able to find their profile. They will have to approve your follow request.

      When a public user goes private, their current followers are unaffected. But anyone who tries to follow them from that point forward has to be approved, even if you once followed them.

  • guest1

    i have a problem which is, i had block a girl, but why izit after i unblock, could not follow back? 

    • If you’re unable to follow her now but you can still see her profile, she must be a private user. If she is, when you look at her profile, it will show her username and bio but no photos. If you tap the follow button, she will get a follow request  from you and approve or deny it. It’s possible she has denied your request or that it’s in the approval queue.

  • Instagramer

    I dont want people on facebook to know follow me on instagram but they keep finding me, i tried checking in settings to stop it or edit profile and it doesnt show it there either, how can fix this? 

    ++ I dont share pictures on facebook straight from instagram 

  • curious

    When you delete a photo from your group, will others still be able to view it? 

    •  No.
      The only way they would be able to view it is if it had shown up in their feed and they had not yet refreshed the IG app. Once they refresh the feed, your photo will disappear.

  • Ledomagency

    Can u keep who u are following private

    • No. You can block certain people and they will not be able to find your profile, let alone see whom you follow. But even when you’re a private user, other users can see whom you follow.

  • David Bass

    If you view someone’s profile, does that person know you’ve viewed their profile? Or how many times you’ve viewed it?

  • darienbusane

    I’m sorry if this has been asked, but my instagram is set on private, but I would like to change it to public. How would I do this? Thank you 🙂

    • Tap on the bottom right icon. Scroll down to the bottom where you’ll see Privacy. Toggle “Photos are private” to OFF.

  • lala anthony

    Can people see my email on instagram?

    • No, but if someone has stored your email in their phone’s contact information, they coudl search Instagram for contacts and find you that way. Your email address will not show up in your profile, though.

  • b.boy

    Hi,

    I see this question has been asked, and answered before, but how is it that with some people I cant see who they are following? So then there must be a way to set it that others can’t see who I follow? Please advise me! Thanks!

    • Short answer: Any number of following over 1,000 or followers over 5,000 generates a “no users found” message.

      Instagram will display the number of followers, but will not display the username list if the number is great than 5,000. For the following list, the cap is 1,000. For example, if I look at your profile (public or private) and you are following 834 users, I can tap that 834 and see the list of usernames. If the number was 1,523, I could not. Note: 5,000 and 1,000 are estimates but appear to be the quotas for the API to display usernames of followers and following, respectively.

  • Yinjee

    how to accept follower requests?? help…

    • Go to your news area (tap the fourth icon on the bottom, the talk bubble with the heart inside). Tap the name of the person who wants to follow you. That will take you to their profile. You can tap the green Approve button there.

  • Sasha Krim

    Hi!!! Some of my Instagran photos appear as “liked” but it doesn’t shows who’s liked it! Why does that happens? Thanks!!!

    • Once a certain number of people like your photo, (I believe it’s ten), you’ll see the heart icon and the number of likes instead of the likers’ names listed. If you click on (number) likes, it will display their names. IG is saving room by capping the liker usernames at nine.

      • Sasha Krim

        It doesn’t show a number either! It just says “liked” . I do see other person’s names within the likes on other friends I follow!

        • What’s your Instagram username? I’ll take a look. Make sure you’ve updated the Instagram app.

          In the meantime, grab a shortlink to the IG photo you’re talking about and look at it online. You should see how many likes you have there. For example: http://instagr.am/p/ahkXy/

          How to get the shortlink: Go your photo within the app, tap the ellipsis (three dots) at the bottom right, and click “Copy share URL.” Then post it here.

  • Littlexmissxfun8

    i accidentally liked someone elses photo that I am not following. I quickly unliked the picture. Will that person be able to tell that I liked the picture even though I unliked it right after?

  • Email_m3e

    Hi Emily.. I recently blocked someone and I understand that the blocked user won’t be able to see my profile nor search me.. But I wanted to know if I will still be able to see that person’s instagram (the one that I blocked)??

    • Yes, you can see the profile of the person that you blocked. And you can view their photos if:
      A) they’re a public user, and
      B) they have not blocked you.
      If they are a private user, as long as you are following them, you can see their photos.

      Note an interesting blocking loophole (or glitch in Instagram’s app):
      A blocked user cannot search for your profile in Instagram via Search Instagram -> Names and Usernames or Tags. The user becomes mostly invisible to you. However, if the user ever liked one of your photos, you can tap their username where it appears on your photo as a liker and you’ll see their profile (though not their photos).

  • Bzimmerle

    Can you remove likes?

    • No, you cannot remove likes. You can remove comments, though: Go to your photo within the Instagram app. Tap “comment” as if you were going to comment on it. Then tap the gear icon in the upper right corner. You can tap the red circle to the left of any comment you wish to delete, then tap “Done.”

  • Ally2010

    Hello! If I block someone on IG, can they see my comments under someone elses photos that I actually follow & follow me? 

    Natalie

    • Yes they can, regardless of whether you posted the comment before or after you blocked them.

  • MC

    Why can’t I see the people who “Like” my photo when I look at the photo from my profile?  It only shows on my newsfeed.  Also, in my newsfeed I try to click the photo that people “liked” but it says “Couldn’t load media”.  Is there anyway this can be fixed?

    • If you’re trying to see the list of names of people who liked your photo when viewing the photo from your own profile, click on the number of likes. If there are more than nine likes, IG doesn’t display the usernames unless you click “16 likes” or however many it is.

      Usually “couldn’t load media” is a connectivity or refresh issue, assuming the photo has not been deleted. Make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Instagram. Make sure you have a strong signal on 3G or are connected to wi-fi. Then fully close the IG app and reopen it. If that doesn’t work, tap the refresh button and wait a half hour and try again. It’s possible the IG servers were overloaded.

      In case you aren’t sure how to fully close an iPhone app, see my other Instagram post: http://www.emilybinder.com/technology/instagram-tips-liking-and-unliking/
      “To fully close an
      iPhone app, on the home screen, double click the home button. Across the
      bottom, you’ll see the apps that are running. Press on any app icon for
      two seconds. They will start floating. Click the red minus circle to
      fully close each app. (Do this often: it saves memory and battery. Only
      run what you need.)”

  • Alanoud

    Hii!! It says I have 15 followers my account is private no it wasn’t when I first started using it. The problem is when I go through my followers list it only shows 11 and I have blocked some people so does this mean they’re still counted but can’t see me ? I also noticed that one of the ppl following me doesn’t show on my follower list and when she likes a picture of my and I go through her profile I can’t add her!! Why is that ? Thank u so much in advance.

    • 1) When you block one of your followers, they still count toward your number of followers but will not show up in followers list (of usernames). To refresh the number of followers, log out and log back in. The blocked user(s) will no longer count toward your number of followers. 2) In order to like a private user’s photo, you must be following them. It sounds like the user in your second question is following you while also blocking you. You say you can’t add her. Try this test: search Instagram for usernames. Type hers. It will not show up if you’re blocked (regardless of whether she is following you). You can follow and block someone at the same time.

  • Jenesita

    If someone is following me but I don’t follow back can they like and comment on my photos?

    • Yes, if you’re a public user. If you’re private, only users whom you have approved to follow you can comment and like your photos.

  • Konichiwa

    Hi Emily, can someone that I don’t know put a “like” on my pictures? Or they are limited to view the pictures only? Thanks!

    • Konichiwa Konichiwa,
      If you’re a public user, any registered Instagram user can like your pictures.

      • Konichiwa

        Thank you!

        My IG is public. If someone I don’t know put like on my pictures, can I know their actual name? If yes, how? Or I will know their IG username only?

        Many thanks!

        • You will know their IG username and you’ll be able to view their profile, which often will contain their actual name, at least in part. That is optional for users, however. If you’re interested in finding out the person’s name, try to see if they list a Twitter handle or URL in their IG profile. Dig around any other information they provide or Google the Instagram username and see what pops up.

  • Tessamarchiafava

    is there a quicker and easier way to delete pictures off of instagram?

    • No, Instagram makes deleting multiple photos fairly onerous. You have to delete them one by one from within Instagram. You could try contacting Instagram directly about the bulk deleting ability here:
      http://getsatisfaction.com/instagram- I’m sure other users have also requested it.

  • AB

    If my tweets are private but my Instagram is public, can someone I tweet an Instagram photo at see it if they don’t follow me on Twitter?

    • No, that person won’t see the tweet. If your Tweets are protected and you send an @reply or @ mention, only those you’ve approved to view your Tweets will ever be able to see it.

      However, the Instagram photo is technically public, so anyone could potentially find it, depending on how private your username and personal information connected to Instagram are. Your IG photos will also show up in public searches the more that they captions or comments on them contain tags.

  • JB

    Can other users see which photos i liked?

    • If they are following you, yes. Your followers will see your likes in their news feeds in real time. Anyone (follower or not) can see your likes on individual photos by viewing those photos; your name will show up in the list of likers of that photo. This is true whether you’re a private user or not. In fact, users you’ve blocked can still see your likes on photos, and you can see theirs.

  • Eleanorhenriques

    Is it possible to view a list of the people that you blocked?

    • There’s no easy way to view everyone you’ve blocked. You might be able to through the Instagram API, which is complicated for most users to try and manipulate.

  • Rachel

    if you block someone will they know that they’ve been blocked?

    • The user will not be notified that you blocked them. But if they try to search for your profile and cannot find it, that will indicate they’ve been blocked. The other clue will be their inability to @ tag you in a comment. They can write @ yourname but it will not be a hyperlink to your profile, nor will IG notify you of the mention. The third way to tell: If they were following you previously, once you block them you will not appear on their followed list.

  • Krystle

    Hi Emily,
    If my profile is set to private and I add # tags to my pictures, for example #ocean, when other people who are not following me do a tag search on #ocean will my tagged photo potentially pop up?
    Thanks for your help.

    • No, your tags won’t be publicly searchable to users not following you.

  • Pinkshorts

    Can you see who is viewing your public photos? I realized that people can still see my instagram photos even if they dont have an account. Is there a way I can see who is looking at my public photos?

    • No, you can’t see who is viewing your public Instagram photos. They only clue you’ll have is if a user comments or likes the photo.

  • Lauren

    Can you see private users on other peoples followers list?

    • Yes. The only time you wouldn’t see the user on others’ followers or following lists if is the user had blocked you.
      However, some people have commented here about a trick they’ve seen where users are able to hide their following and follower lists. I don’t know how to activate this yet.

  • Stayinfresh365

    Hi

    Is there any possible way you can hide who’s following you and who you’re following? I don’t want people who are following me be able to see who I’m following

  • Angel

    I am trying to delete a comment I wrote on someone’s else’s photo but it keeps saying error and I want my comment deleted. What do I do if it keeps saying error won’t delete?

    • Exit the app completely. (Double tap the home button until all apps are floating along the bottom, then click the red circled minus sign on the Instagram icon.) Make sure you’ve downloaded 1) the latest IG update from the App Store; 2) the latest version of iTunes so that you’ve updated your iPhone OS. A new OS was released in the last couple weeks.

      After all that, open the app and log out by tapping the rectangular icon on the bottom right then scrolling down to “Log out.” Now log back in. Go to the photo. Tap “comment” as if you were going to comment again. Then swipe your finger to the left over your comment and you’ll see the Delete box appear. If it doesn’t, just click the gear icon in the top right and you can delete by tapping the small red minus sign next to your comment.

  • sammy

    I wanted to disassociate my Facebook account from my Instagram so my Facebook friends who have Instagram can’t find me, I tried deleting the app from my Facebook but if someone searches from friends, they can still see me, is there a way I can delete it so I’m not searchable?

    • I’ve experimented with this as well. It may be a function of lag time and refreshing the Instagram app, but for at least one day after you’ve disconnected Instagram from your Facebook allowed apps, your Facebook friends may still be able to search for you on Instagram by searching for Facebook friends.

      Make sure you’ve removed Instagram from your Facebook apps and also disconnect the Facebook account from Instagram. In the Instagram app, go to Account (tap the lower right icon on bottom) -> Edit sharing settings -> uncheck Facebook. Refresh the app. Log out and log back in.

      If you are very concerned about the lingering connection, to fully overwrite your Instagram account’s connection to your Facebook account, try connecting IG to a dummy Facebook account. Do this in the same settings area described above, but you’ll need to be logged out of Facebook beforehand.