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 or switch 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.

622 thoughts on “Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ”

  1. if my instagram is on private, and i unfollow someone who is already following me can they still see my pictures?

    1. yes they can. you must go to their page, on the top right hand corner of every persons page their is a button with the option to report or block the user…block the user and he/she will be automatically deleted from your followers and of course blocked as in they cant even search for you

  2. If I block someone on instagram, can I still see their profile/pictures? Of I block someone, they can’t see mine, correct? Is it like fb where it’s like they don’t exist because you can’t search for them and they can’t search for you? Thanks

    1. If you block someone, yes you can still see their profile and pictures if they’re public. If they’re private, you will only be able to see their pictures if you are following them. If you block someone, they cannot see your pictures and won’t be able to search for your profile, however they could see your profile (without pictures) if they find your username in an old comment or photo from before you blocked them. They would not be able to follow you, however. It’s close to blocking on Facebook except for one difference: In a Facebook photo where someone you’ve blocked had posted a comment previously, you can still see their name but it’s not a hyperlink to their profile. With Instagram, their name is a link to their profile (without pictures). But generally, Facebook makes a blocked user much more invisible to you than Instagram does. They share this: you cannot tag or search for someone who has blocked you.

  3. Hi, I am private but someone I am following is public. Unfortunately they do not follow me back. If I tag them in a photo, will they be able to see it?

  4. If I block a user, then comment on the blocked user’s photo or like their photo, will they be able to see my comment or like?

    1. Yes, they will be able to see the comment or like and they will receive a notification for it. They will be able to tap your username and see your profile (without photos) but will not be able to request to follow you.

  5. if I look at someones instagram profile will I then appear as a suggested user to them? I’ve looked at a couple random profiles and a day later they are my followers. This cannot be a coincidence.

  6. i have this an ex friend every time i block her username, she changes it instagram (without a new account) to something else, so she can send another request to follow me. is there a way to PERMANENTLY block her?

    1. Try to let her requests just sit — ignore them, do not accept or reject the request. That will keep her in friend limbo. However, when she changes her username, you’re saying she can re-request to friend you on a request that you have left in limbo?
      I don’t know of a way to permanently block someone who changes their username continually. Last resort: you could try and change yours and remove identifying information from your profile (such as linked social media accounts) but that would be a hassle and something you shouldn’t have to/don’t want to do.
      If the harassment continues, report her to Instagram.

  7. If I block someone on instagram will I be able to follow them, comment on their photos etc.. If so will they be notified that I followed them

  8. I have A question, If I block someone on instagram and we both have mutual followers and we both follow them, can the person I block see my page and my username on a picture that I get tagged in? Or tagge in a comment?

  9. Can I see if someone that is not a follower of mine is viewing my photos or has gone to my account?  Can I like a pic if someone is not someone I am following? 

    1. No you can’t tell who has viewed your photos. Yes you can like a picture posted by someone you’re not following (you can test this out easily).

  10. someone liked my photo, but someone I blocked is following that person, will my picture show up in hes feed?

  11. If I blocked someone on instagram, could they still see my pictures that they “liked”?

  12. Hi. I was wondering how to block a user after they block you. Someone keeps taking my pics. Thanks!

  13. If I stalk someones IG without following or liking their pics can they find out that I’m viewing their pics????????

  14. If you blocked a person & u and that person follow some of the same people can that person you blocked still see photos that your common followers like??

  15. is there a way to block people from viewing who I’m following or who is following me?

    1. Sort of, but not completely. Your best bet to hide who you are following and who follows you from one
      user is to block them, but there is no absolute way to hide these
      Who can see your following and follower lists:
      1. If you’re public: anyone
      2. If you’re
      private: anyone
      3. Blocked users can see the lists: here’s how:
      When you block a user, they will not be able to search for your profile. In that regard, they will not be able to see who you’re following and who is following you. However, if the blocked user can find your username in a like or comment on any photo, they can tap your username and go to your profile. There, they cannot see your photos, but they can see the followers and following numbers and names as long as your followers are fewer than 5,000 and you follow less than 1,000 users.
      About these threshold list numbers:
      One way to hide the names of your followers and following from Instagram app users is to follow 1,000 or more people and/or to have more than 5,000 followers. 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.

  16. Is there a way to keep the people who I’m following and who are following me private?
    If yes please tell me what to do.

  17. I cant add a friend… I can see her profile but it won’t allow me to request her profile. How do I fix this?

    1. This probably means she blocked you, in which case you cannot request to add her. Are you able to search for her by username and find her profile? If not, she blocked you.

  18. I have a question, I have a friend on IG that I can’t see their photos when I go to their profile, when I search their username it shows up and when I click it the “follow” button still says “you are following this user” an the button is still green and says “following” I’m still on their followers list and they are still on my followers list too, but it keeps saying “couldn’t refresh feed” the last picture they posted is still showing up on my news feed too so idk whats going on? I read if they block you then you cant search for their name Cause it won’t show up but I still can search for them and it comes up, so idk if they blocked me or not?

    1. If you’re following a user, you are not blocked. Blocking removes you from their followers list. If you can search for them, you’re not blocked. Try to update your Instagram app, log out, log back in, and refresh to see if the photos appear.

  19. if i search someone on instagram, is there any way for them to tell i viewed their profile?

  20. If I block a user & one of the people I follow likes their pictures will it show up on my feed if their profile is public?

    1. Yes. Say you block Denny (who is public). You follow Ella. Ella likes one of Denny’s photos. Ella’s like will show up in your Following news feed as:
      “Ella liked __ photo(s)” with the thumbnail image of Denny’s photo and any other photos Ella liked in the same time period.

  21. But u still didn’t answer my question. If you try to follow somebody and instagram won’t let u, does that mean that the person blocked you or something?

    1. If you tap the follow button on their profile and nothing happens — meaning the screen does not change at all and the follow button doesn’t change — then they have blocked you.

  22. What I still don’t get and it doesn’t seem to be explained anywhere, is: if I blocked someone and we have a common friend, can that blocked user see my comments on the common friend’s photo? Also, can he/she click on my username on that same comment and access my profile?

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