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.

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


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.

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.

  • Indianbeauty54

    I have a very important question about instagram ?!

  • Indianbeauty54

    I just wanted to kno if u report someone for abuse on instagram will they kno it was u ?!!

  • Indianbeauty54

    And would they really know it was u too as well even if they are blocked from your page?!

  • KG

    Hello Emily, quick question: if someone who is not following me has ‘liked’ one of my photos, but then I set my profile to Private, will they still be able to see this photo if they go into their “Photos I’ve Liked” section?

    •  No. Once you go private, your photo that they liked while you were public (or while you private but they were an approved follower) will no longer appear in their “Photos you’ve liked” section. If you go public again or if they request to follow you while you’re private and you approve them, the liked photo will reappear for them.

  • Junher1

    If my instagram is on private and my friend likes a photo of mine, can her followers(who are not following me) still see my photo that she liked on her newsfeed or likes?

  • Mchelo22

    What happens when u write a comment and then put a persons username like @example what does it do??

    • Basic answer: As long as @ example (user) is not blocking you and you’re not blocking them, anywhere you write @ example in a comment will be a hyperlink to their profile and they will be notified in their newsfeed of the mention. This is true even if you’re private.

      When blocking is involved:

      1. If you block  @ example then mention them in a comment, they will not receive the notification. However, their username will appear as a hyperlink.

      2. If @ example has blocked you, you will not be able to @ mention them where the username becomes a hyperlink, nor will they be notified.

  • Macias_41

    If you post a comment will they be able to block the comment from anyone seeing it but you?

  • StylePoise

    How do I prevent my facebook friends from finding me on instagram?

    •  Hi, see the above comment: https://www.emilybinder.com/technology/instagram-privacy-tips-and-faq/#comment-397332024

      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).

      • Mckenziemitosinka

        so if i don’t put my phone number and thats the only info they have about me they wont be able to find me right? 

        • Correct. But if someone has your phone number, they probably know your name, right? If they know your name, username, or know other users you may follow or interact with, they could search you out. If there is a particular user you don’t want to find you, block them. Someone purely having your phone number and zero other contact information (including your name) would not be able to search you through Instagram’s contacts search. Good luck.

    • Users can search for you by name and username regardless of connecting your social networks to Instagram. Do you use your real name or nickname or a known username? They could find you that way.
      Disconnect your Facebook account from Instagram by removing the app’s access from your Facebook settings. That will help. Are you posting the photos to Facebook or other social networks? If so, that increases the chance they will find you. If you’ve never connected your Facebook account, that’s good. If so, disconnect it, but realize there is sometimes a lag time on your not showing up via this search method in IG. Lastly, if your email is linked to IG and friends know it or it’s the same one on Facebook, that also helps them find you.

      • Michael

        Hi I disconnected Facebook account from instagram. I removed the app access from setting like I saw u say here.
        Here’s my problem.
        I from time to time get notifications sayin this person just joined instagram who’s friends with me on FB and I’m like what! I just followed the step u talked about here

        Do the people I’m friends with on FB know know I’m on instagram since I did all that u say to do.
        No one on fb knows my email nor my instgram screen name.

        Hope u can help me out in some sort of way.

  • Brrger

    Someone that is not following me and my photos are on private liked a couple of my photos did they hack it or something?

    • 1. Did the person like your photos before you went private?
      2. Were they following you before you went private or at any point while you were private?
      3. Were these photos posted before you went private?
      Did you post a shortlink to any of these photos on Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, posterous, or flickr?

  • Rodriiqo’

    Is There Any Way I Can Make My Followers And The People Im Following Private? only I Can See That?

    • Short answer: No. There is no complete way to hide this information from being accessed if you have ever taken an action on IG such as commenting or liking, unless you delete all likes and comments (traces of your profile). You can block someone, in which case they only way they can access your profile is by tapping you username in an old comment or like from before you had blocked them. Then they can see your followers but not who you are following.

  • James

    Of someone blocks me can they still see my pictures even if my profile is on private? How can I stop them from checking on me all the time? I have a bitter ex gf problem haha

    •  If your profile is private, users who follow you can see your photos. If your ex was following you prior to your going private, and she is still following you, she can see your photos. You need to block her to become invisible to her. If she blocked you, you are probably wondering how to get to her profile in order to block her.

      Once you are blocked, you can still access the user’s profile (but not their photos) via a loophole: If you can find their username in an old comment or a like that was posted pre-blocking, tap the user’s name to view their profile (bio, followers). You won’t be able to view their photos. This is a problem with Instagram’s privacy settings: She has blocked you and let’s say you wanted to go back and delete certain comments you’d posted on her photos because A) you wanted them deleted or B) you wanted her to have no way to access your profile after you block her. Without using loopholes, you cannot accomplish this.

  • Shannon201810

    I have random people and “increase your followers” following me and I turned on the privacy setting. Is their anyway I can delete them from following me?

    • Yes. Anyone previously following you before you went private, regardless of whether you
      followed them or not, is grandfathered in when you switch from public to
      private. Here is how to get rid of them from your Instagram followers list:
      While you’re private, follow the user. Then unfollow -> block -> unblock.

  • Mckenziemitosinka

    is there a way that you can make it so people can’t search for you? like can they find you if you are in there contact list but not friends with them on facebook? is there a way to take that off?

  • Quentin dennard

    Is there a way to delete “likes” you don’t want from certain users on particular pics you post on IG?

  • Cucdicickcuc

    When I find users in my contact list some random girl pops up that’s not in my phone contact list how do I get to rid of them? Hope it makes sense

    • I think you’re saying that when you search in Instagram for contacts (from your phone contacts) a random girl pops up that you do not have stored in your phone contacts. I don’t see any way for this to happen unless somewhere in your phone or email contacts you have at least one piece of information that matches her Instagram profile information (name, email address, mobile phone number, username). This also depends on whether you have a contact sync set up between your phone and email account(s) or iCloud if on iPhone. What kind of phone do you have? Is it synced to your email contacts (sometimes comprised of a much larger list of every person you have ever emailed on, say, gmail or Yahoo)? This could explain it.

      Are you connected to her on any social networks?

      If you have an iPhone, from the home screen, slide left so you get to the Search iPhone area. Enter her name and see if your phone has the record of her anywhere. Try any other contact details you have one at a time. If you’re on Android, look for the same phone search function. It queries everything inside the phone from contacts to app data to emails. Let me know what happens.

      • Cvbdgdfgfdgfdg

         hey sorry i just put letters in for the sign in thing but my name is Andy and yeah that’s exactly what I’m asking, the only thing close to her name is my boss’s name but i cant figure it out its like a fan page for some band called d1 or something emma malik is her name i tried reporting her but nothing i also thought it was i tried looking through all my contacts to see if i can find something but i couldtn 

        • Andy

           hey Emily it went away after reporting her to the IG team but thanks for the quick response, also you have a sweet blog

  • Maria

    My ex new girlfriend is stalking me in a subtle but still annoying way on Instagram, she’s not one of my followers but everytime I start to follow someone/someone follows me she starts to follow them about an hour afterwards. I’ve experimented a few times with new followers and the same pattern repeats itself so I’m sure she is looking at my profile daily and that it is not merely a coincidence.

    I would like to keep my profile open, but I’ve blocked her. Now does this mean that it is only my photos that she is prevented from seeing or have I also blocked her access to my followers/the people I’m following?

    • Maria, short answer: if she is at all savvy to Instagram, you’ve only blocked her from seeing your photos. There is a loophole in blocking privacy: Normally, blocking someone should make your Instagram profile totally invisible and impossible for the blocked user to locate by any search method. The loophole I’ve mentioned before (https://www.emilybinder.com/technology/instagram-privacy-tips-and-faq/#comment-489294328) is that if the blocked user can find your username in a pre-blocking comment or like that you posted on one of their old pictures, they can tap your name and get to your profile.

      There, they will not be able to see your photos but they will be able to see your followers/following counts. Note that if the number of users you are following is at a certain high level (1,000 I think), she will see the number and can tap it but then instead of the username list it will say “No users found.” That’s because the Instagram API will not grab data over a certain threshold.

      My advice would be to try and delete every comment or like you’ve posted on her old photos so she cannot find any link to your profile. Of course, some stalkers will just make a fake profile to circumvent being blocked. You can go on private mode but any user can still see your followers/following (unless the list is over ~1,000). There is no perfect solution to your problem, I’m afraid, unless you want to follow over 1,000 people and try to get followed by over 1,000 people. Perhaps Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram will change this problem.

      • zzeek

        So, does it have to be on a photo on the blocked person’s profile specifically?
        As in, will they be able to see my comments or comments that mention me on mutual friends’ photos? 
        And if they can see the comments, can the person you’ve blocked click on the link to your profile that’s on a mutual friend’s photo/comment to get to your profile? 

        • Update to answer your question:
          A blocked user can see your likes and comments on a mutual friend’s photos (or on any public user’s photos). They can tap your username to get to your profile. From my updated above comment (https://www.emilybinder.com/technology/instagram-privacy-tips-and-faq/#comment-498816329):

          In the Instagram mobile app: When a blocked user gets to your profile, they will not be able to see your photos but they will be able to
          see your followers/following counts. Note that if the number of users
          you are following is over 1,000, they will see the number and can tap it
          but then instead of the list of names, it will say “No users found.”
          That’s because the Instagram API will not grab data over a certain
          threshold. To hide the names on the list of who follows you, the number
          needs to be over 5,000. The only way to view the names on a list that
          size is to use a third party site such as web.stagram.com or gramfeed.com.

      • Gotaluvfrankie

        I blocked someone but there pictures still show up on my wall how do I get rid of that sk I don’t have to see them at all

  • Question

    Every time I change my profile picture on instagram it turns off my privacy settings. How can I change it while still keeping my privacy on?

    • Not sure why that would be happening. Try just turning privacy back on in account settings after you change your profile picture.

      • Alyanareid

        I’m having the same problem but opposite. My instagram won’t let me change my profile picture with out making my profile private.. And when ever I turn off the privacy my profile picture changes to my previous profile picture.

        • MAD

          SAME!!! have you found a solution? what kind of phone do you have?

          • Instagram privacy changes when updating profile photo: A known IG bug that they are working on. IG help portal: “We are aware of an issue where changing your profile photo also changes privacy settings. There is a related issue where profile photos change when turning privacy on or off. We are working on resolving these issues as soon as possible. In the meantime, we’d suggest avoiding altering your profile photo if you would like your profile privacy to remain the same.”

      • Dicccktracccy

        That doesn’t work and it’s really Pissn me off

  • Jen

    Thanks so much for all your posts, they’ve been really informative and helpful!

    Is there a way to keep your privacy setting on private but use hash tags for certain pictures?

    Also, if your photos are private (and using hash tags doesn’t work because of your privacy setting) how do people you don’t know end up finding you and request to follow you? They can’t even see your pictures until you approve them, right?

    Thanks again for all the information 🙂

  • Guest

    Is there anyway I can see pictures my followers have liked on instagram besides hitting the followers button? I’m wanting to see all pictures they have liked 

  • Josh

    When i set my profile to private, my profile picture disappears. When i look at other people’s profiles who are set to private i can still see their profile pictures, even though i am not following them. How can i keep my profile picture while my profile is set to private?

    • ian

      ive had the same problem in my iphone. have you found a solution? 

  • Kev1234

    If your photos are private and someone likes your photo, can people who don’t follow you see the pictures in the feed where it shows who likes who’s photos and such?

    •  No. Say Kevin is private. Emily follows Kevin. Emily is public. Cori follows Emily but not Kevin. Cori can see the photos that Emily likes only if those photos are from users that are public or private users that Cori is also following.

  • Natilee

    I had was following someone on instagram and now I’m not and there not following me back I keep pressing there follow bottom but it doesn’t send them a friend request and there trying to follow me back but it’s doing the samething why isnt it allowing us to follow each other?

    • Are you private users? If so, the follow button on both your profiles should trigger a follow request. If you are public users, you will be able to follow one another with no approval process. Whether you’re private or public, if you are blocked by the other user, then you won’t be able to follow or request to follow. Try to unfollow then refollow each other. Try it while on private and on public. You can revert to whichever privacy setting you had afterward.

  • Malihasmuse

    Hi, how do I find my ‘blocked list’?

    • There’s no way to view blocked users in a list.

  • Now I can’t login

    What does it mean when the error message saying “can’t connect to login server” pops up repeatedly while trying to login ?

  • Instagram User

    Can I make my “likes” private!? I don’t want my ex to see the pics I like…thanks!!

    • If someone is following you, they’ll have access to your likes in their news feed. If someone is not following you, your like on any photo is still visible to them when viewing that photo unless you blocked them prior to liking the photo.

  • Jtma1977

    Someone had blocked my account on instagram and then followed me so I blocked them how can I unblock the user if they already have me blocked?

    • You need to access the profile of the user who blocked you in order to block them. This is only possible if you can find a photo that they liked or commented on before they blocked you. You can tap their username from there. It’s the loophole that prevents blocking from offering 100% invisibility.

      Any actions the other user takes on Instagram (liking, commenting) after they blocked you are invisible to you. Try to find an older photo of yours or a different user’s that you remember the blocker had commented on or liked, then tap their username and you’ll get to their profile. Block them.

  • When you’re private, if you hashtag one of your photos, it will count toward the total number of results (photos) displayed for another user’s search for that hashtag, however the photo itself will be invisible. Say you search for #clouds and there are 93 results. If one of those users is private and you don’t follow them, you will only see 92 actual photos.

    IG users cannot find your private profile via hashtags that you have posted on your photos. Users can find you while you’re private in other ways via the find a friend functionality of the contact list, Facebook friends, Twitter friends, IG user names, and first/last/full name search.

  • Tonygidlund

    I had a pretty rough breakup and since we have a lot of mutual friends I don’t want to see her name/comments every time I use IG. If she blocks me will this be prevented?

    • Yes. Every action she takes after blocking you will be invisible to you. You will still be able to see her actions on older photos. For example, if she liked your photo or a mutual friend’s photo last month before she blocked you, you’ll be able to see her actions and can access her profile by tapping her username next to that comment or like.

      Overall, having her block you is your best bet for not having constant reminders of her, though. And obviously, make sure that you are not following her.

  • Bbernardiaea

    Once you have toggled to Private… Can it be reverted to public at alater time?

    • Bbernardiaea

      sorry, typo… it should say, at a later time 🙂

      • Yes, you can toggle between private and public as often as you like. Users who follow you while you are public will be carried over when you go private. They are grandfathered in, so to speak. Only new follower requests when you’re private will need to be approved by you.

        • BbernardIAEA

          Thank you 🙂

          Also.. good advice on the cyberbullying… I am a teacher… this is a constant issue and I agree with you that the school MUST protect the students.

          • As you know, there is usually a lag between the adoption of new technology and any administrative entity incorporating policy to regulate the use of the new technology. Cyber bullying is a relatively new concept for many adults, parents, and teachers compared to traditional bullying/locker stuffing. Instagram is one of the newest social networks that kids are adopting, compared to ubiquitous Facebook. Instagram was only available on iPhone until very recently and still is not a household name. It may take awhile but one would think that after the last ten years of bullying being continously in the news, administrators would be vigilant to the ever-evolving forms of bullying that technology enables. I am glad that at least one teacher understands (and I know there are more like you).

  • Elle

    My instagram won’t let me change my display picture I’ve tried numerous different times an it says it can’t change it
    At this time and for me to check that I have Internet then try again shortly. I definitely have Internet access and have tried everything even deleting the app and re downloading it. Please help!