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. Can I completely block a person that she cannot pull up my name at all? She is not 1 of my followers but she can see my unnamed and who I filial ad my folliwers

      1. You can’t block someone 100%. If she can get to your profile by tapping on your username anywhere on Instagram (in another photo like or comment) she can see your following and followers.

  2. can I tell who viewed my instagram? will instagram make this possible in the future? just wondering b/c I feel like I have stalkers and I would like to know who it is

    1. You can’t and I definitely don’t foresee this functionality being added. Just as Facebook doesn’t report who has viewed your profile, Instagram won’t.

  3. How do you know whether someone has blocked you on Instagram or they deleted their account? When I do a search for someone it says “No users found,” however I can still see their name and profile pic in my “News” feed from when they first followed me, etc. 

  4. If your profile is private, can other users who are not following you, but who are friends with someone who is, see when the friend has liked one of your photos?  In short, would it show up on their activity feed?  Thanks!!  

  5. My ex’s new gf went onto my ex’s IG account and blocked me. My ex was able to add me on IG and I could approve the request, and my username shows up on my ex’s following list. However, when I go to my followers list my ex’s username does not show up. Whenever I go onto my ex’s profile and tap the follow button, it does not change to “requested”. What is going on? Also, on the bottom of my ex’s profile it says “all items loaded.” I’m confused – is this a fluke? I didn’t block my ex on IG. If my ex blocked me is it still possible for them to add me? Lol we are trying to figure it out!

  6. Hi Emily!

    I’ve read the whole blog but stil didn’t find the answer. My friend blocked me and I want to block him. He has never made any comments or liked any of my photos so there will not be a link. I cant block him. I made one comment once on one of his photos. That’s it. How can I find and block him as I k ow he is following me. Would my comment show up in my news feed? It was 3 weeks ago. I my news feed doesn’t go that far back.

  7. Question on this; if I accidentally liked someone’s pic, then deleted MY instagram account, will MY like under my username still show on THEIR pic?

  8. Hi, if you are X and on someone’s contact list and you block them, then you unblock them, do they get a message saying “X has just joined instagram”? Basically, is there any notification that would be sent out to let someone know they have been unblocked? Thank you.

  9. Is there a way for people who you do and do not follow you to see how often you look at their page?

  10. What does it mean when you get a message that reads sorry we couldn’t complete your request our team will investigate

  11. If you liked a “photo” but delete the “like” right away, will the person who posted this photo still get a notification, even though i disliked it RIGHT AWAY?

  12. what if i blocked my girlfriend because i over reacted to something sensitive (& i was drunk & it was bad times) and now we are alright and she has no idea why she can’t follow me. How can I unblock a user?

  13. If IG says “no users found” when I search for someone but have seen their sn on another’s page and been able to view the page AND photos- am I blocked…? I see that you’ve said its possible to see the page but not photos when you’re blocked so I hope this isn’t redundant. But is it still the same conclusion even though I can see photos as well?

    1. Are you saying that you saw person 1’s username in a like or comment on another user’s photo and you were able to tap username 1 then see their photos and full profile? If you can see person 1’s photos on their profile page, you’re not blocked, regardless of how you accessed their profile. Try once more to search for their username. Let me know what happens.

  14. Hi,
    I cant use my picture from my library, it says that this app does not have access to my photos or videos and that I can enable access in privacy settings. But I cant find that. I have Iphone. can you help me

    1. i figured it out. idk if u did yet. but go into ur phone settings. press privacy and press yes to instagram for photos

    2. Go to ur settings on ur iPhone and click on privacy then go down an click photos and u should see Instagram app and click it and it will say on or off click on!!

  15. Hi, I deleted my instagram account a couple weeks ago but when I google my old username some of my pictures still pop up. Is there any way of deleting these? Or are they on the internets forever?

    1. What are the URLs of the Instagram pictures that are popping up? If you shared the photos to Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, or some other places the images may still exist on those domains and you’d need to delete those posts. Once you delete your IG account though, the images will no longer be hosted by Instagram nor will they show up in the Instagram app.

  16. I have added a friend from school on my IG but we’re not close friends. On her main profile page, it shows 20 friends (following her) but when I click the Following page, it shows only 19 friends. I’ve asked our mutual friends if they have the same issue and they all have the same thing. How come we can’t view the 20th friend (we don’t know who is the 20th friend)? I don’t believe all of us are blocked at the same time. Will be thankful of your answer.

  17. I have noticed that people on Instagram have been able to hide their followers even though their profile is public. How do they do this? Keen to know as would like to do it myself. You can still see who they are following but not their followers

  18. If I block someone on Instagram then can they see my photo if they see in their “following newsFeed” that one of the people they’re following liked my photo?

  19. I cant find her when i search her i made another accou t and searched her and still couldnt find her on instagram but when i went back to my old account i found her in a picture her friend tagged her in it says “user not found” but i can see her profile pic ans it says no photos sometimes it doesnt say user not found

  20. I seem to have followers that have deleted their accounts or blocked me, but they still show up on my follower list. How can I block/delete them? My followers number is higher than it really is.

    Like for example, I am following everyone who follows me. But my account still says “followers: 276. Following: 267”. Wtf. It’s driving me bonkers!

    1. Hi Cor, you must not be following every person who is following you.

      If someone blocks you, they could still be following you. If they’ve deleted their account, they will not be counted on your followers list anymore. Blocking someone does not automatically make you stop following them.

      If you want to block someone who has blocked you, you need to find their username on on an old photo or like then go to their profile and block them. You won’t be able to search for them, but you can still access your profile using that method.

      Someone you are following could remove themselves from your following list without blocking you.

      1. Hmm, interesting.

        What if that person who has potentially blocked me, has not commented or liked anything of mine? How then can I access their account to block them and remove them from my followers list?

        I know for a fact I am following everyone visibly following me. I have three different iPhone apps I’ve searched through.

        Somehow there are people following me who I can’t remove!

    1. No, you will not appear on the followers list of the person you blocked (let’s call that person Julia). However, Julia’s listed number of followers will account for you — your name simply won’t appear. So Julia’s followers number could be 30, but she will only see 29 names (assuming the other 29 people following her have not blocked her).

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