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.

  • Jack

    Mutual friends: 255
    Users I’m following: 261
    Users that are following me: 267

    I’m really confused. I’ve gone through my list dozens of times. I am following EVERYONE that follows me. Clearly there are users that have blocked me but are still following me (their names show up in apps). How can I block them also so they are removed from following me?!

    • Hi Jack, an annoying problem, isn’t it? Instagram privacy is a mess and it’s full of loopholes. You’re right – some users who are following you have blocked you. If those users’ names show up in apps as you say, then you know who they are. Since you cannot search for a user who’s blocked you, you’ll need to find their username in a like or comment on a photo that you can view (a public photo or a photo posted by a private user you’re following). If you know the blockers personally, you could probably poke around and find other Instagram users with whom your blockers are likely to interact (interact meaning like or comment). Tap their username once you find it and block them.

      If some of the blockers are strangers, you could try and dig around the web to discover their other social profiles. They may have the same username for IG, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. From there, you may be able to figure out at least one IG user they follow, then scroll through photos looking for an action from the blocker.

  • Jackie

    If I blocked then unblocked a person, do they need to re-follow me?

    • Caroline

      If a person is following you on Twitter and you post a picture on Instagram & Twitter at the same time, can the person still view the Instagram post by clicking on the link on the tweet or does he/she have to create and Instagram account?

      • If your Instagram post is public or if the person if following you, they can see the Instagram photo by clicking the link in the tweet. If they don’t have an IG account but you are a public user, they will be able to see the IG photo by clicking the link in the tweet. Does that answer you question? If not, can you be more specific about your privacy settings on Instagram and Twitter?

  • Saulei

    Hi, I don’t really have a question. I just want to express my disappointment and frustration with Instagram’s “block” option. It has tons of MAJOR loopholes. I wanted to know how the users I’ve blocked (and currently not following) view me on their Instagram feed so I experimented by making a dummy account which I blocked from my personal account. And here is what I found out:

    1) If you are blocked and you search for the username, it will say “no user found”
    2) But, if you come across a photo that the blocker liked or commented on, you can easily go to their profile.
    3) Lastly (and this is the MAJOR one), once you’re on the profile, it will show the current number of photos (like 43 photos, for example) but at the bottom (the space where the photos are supposed to be), it says “no photos yet”. AND if you try to follow them, it will turn green and say “following” for half a second then turn back to blue!!! You can EASILY tell if you’ve been blocked.

    The block option doesn’t provide the privacy that the blocker needs. It’s pretty much useless. That’s why I just unblocked them and simply kept my profile private. I realized it will cause much more trouble if they found out I blocked them. It really is very frustrating! I really hope Instagram fixes this!

    • I agree – the block feature is quite lacking. Instagram still hasn’t done much to fix this. The takeaway is that you can’t safely post private things and expect them to stay truly private. Instagram is owned by Facebook, after all. Sounds like you have the best solution here – be a private user, or just stop caring if people know you’ve blocked them. They’re not really your friends anyway at that point.

  • veronica

    are there any apps out there that can tell you when a person has viewed your instagram page? someone I know told me exactly how many times I viewed their page a week and said they saw when I looked at it? there must be an app that allows this capability has anyone have any idea what app is it? but he was dead on correct so I know he wasnt just pulling my leg! there is a way people can tell when youve looked at their page! be careful people!!

    • Hi, there is no app I can imagine that can track when you’ve viewed someone’s Instagram photos or profile. Just as with Facebook, no one will know when you’ve looked at their profile unless you take some action such as liking, commenting, or requesting to follow.

      • chuckster3rd

        I don’t see anyway to like a picture on Instagram.

        • On mobile: double tap on the picture or tap the heart icon below it.

  • Tattered

    So I blocked someone on ig some how they now blocked me!? How does that happen?! And can they now see my photos when they please? I’m not okay with that!!

  • heidi

    So if I blocked someone while I wasn’t private, then went private, if I unblock them they will have access and not go through the approval process?

  • maria

    If i register myself in instagram is it possible that some people can know my email?

    • Users will not be able to see your email address in your Instagram profile. However if a user has your email stored in their phone’s contacts, they may be able to search Instagram for their contacts and find your username that way.

  • Sally

    If I have changed my mind and want to unblock someone who I previously blocked, will they still be following me when I do? (i.e. they were following me, then I blocked them. If I unblock, will the previous status be there or do they have to re-follow me)?

    • Once you block someone, that removes them from following you. They will have to re-follow you.

  • MadGirlfriend362

    My stupid ex boyfriend blocked me on instagram, whichis great! But not for me. He can still see my photos even though he has indeed blocked me, and since he blocked me I can’t search for him and “revenge” block him back so…wtf. he stalks my pictures and im not even allowed to block him back. Smh instagram, smh.

  • curiousgeorge

    Hi, I searched for a user–their names pops up and i am able to view their profile, and their picture a long with follow them. When I follow them they still appear in my follow list…. But ne thing, when I go to like a picture, the red heart appears for a second the unlikes itself, also, when I try to comment on their picture, I get a red ! that doesn’t allow the comment to post. Why is this , and am I blocked. We have one follower in common that we both follow and he follows both of us back if that means anything..

  • Sitnpretty

    What does this Instagram comment mean?
    C;

  • liam

    I cant find privacy settings on my iphone i need to acces my photos i already have took and post them but i cant. it always says you can access the photos on privacy settings but i cant find it. I looked at settings and it said that privacy settings was under edit profile . i looked there but there is no privacy settings. where is it.

  • mayai

    Hello. ..I appreciate you’re helping us understan instagram. So thank you. …I have a question. .I’ve seen some people hide some of the people they follow. .for example, it says following 5 but when I click on it, it only shows 4 accts…how its that possible? ?? I tried to figure it out but can’t. .do you know how???

  • Blues

    Hello..

    I found this post very interesting.. thank you for sharing.

    As we have notices there are lots of stuff happened to IG lately.. but I do have one question..

    Is it possible for someone to hide their activity on IG purposely or is that IG bug?

    I have a friend who has private IG as do I. As far as I know we have never blocked each other. I have unfollowed his IG few weeks a go but followed back 8he accepted). I had his activity normally on my follower/news feed, but at one point (and I didnt do anything) his activity dissapeared from my news feed. All of his activity. I thought he unliked some pic I saw he like (like an hour a go) but his likes where there just not showing up on my news feed. Then I saw he like some new stuff and it still didnt show up on my news feed. I do get updates from all of my other followers. (I dont have bug acc (20 followers) and his acc is also not big (not 50 followers).

    So Im really puzzled..

    thank you..

    Blues

    • Blues

      Sorry on my spelling.. english is not my first language..

    • Hi there. Is he currently following you? Are you following him? When his activity disappeared from your news feed, do you mean that his past actions went away, or that no new actions were showing up? Can you find a picture of yours that he liked? Will you send me the shortlink to that photo?

  • curious

    What happens when you follow someone you blocked?

    • If you try to follow a public user whom you have blocked, you will then be following them regardless of the fact that you’re also technically blocking them at the same time. They will receive the follow notification. They will then be able to tap on your username and view your profile photo, bio, number of posts, number of followers and following (not the usernames), and not your photos. If they try to follow you, the request will not transmit. For the blocked user, tapping the blue Follow button on your profile will show the green Following button for a split second then automatically return to Follow: request not processed.

      If you block a private user then request to follow them, they will receive a notification that you have requested to followed them and they’ll have the opportunity to approve or deny your follow request. If they deny it, when you look at their profile, the area where you normally see the blue Follow or green Following button will show a grey Requested button until they either approve you (and turn it to green Following) or deny you (in which case you will just see the grey Requested button until you tap it and try to refollow).

      Note about blocked user receiving follow notification or request from the blocker (applies to private and public blocked users): If you (the blocker) follow then unfollow the blocked user before they refresh the app, they will not see a notification or follow request in their feed.

  • Abel

    If I have been blocked by person A, does this mean tht I cannot see if he follows person B (on person B’s follower list)?

  • Shera

    Hi,

    First, thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this!!!

    I have a confusing situation. At least it’s confusing to me! lol My instagram is set to private and someone requested me. Against my better judgement, I approved them and then immediately went to follow them. Upon doing so, I noticed that I was blocked from this person. So, they requested me and blocked me all at once. I went ahead and blocked this person back (after having to dig and dig to find them again) but I am wondering if there is anyway for me to make it so that they are no longer a follower of mine even though they have me blocked? I know that until I was able to find them again to block them back, they were able to see all of my pictures since I did in fact “approve” them even though they had me blocked immediately after they requested to follow me… I hope that this makes sense.

    • Hi Shera, you’re welcome. I enjoy it.

      Question: is the other user private now? Assuming other user is a male (not sure): Was he private before he blocked you? Were you private all along? Can you let me know your and his usernames so I can look — as I know you cannot see his as a regular user. It’s fine to email the usernames to me through my website contact form if privacy is a concern.

    • In the mean time, navigate to his profile and block him. That will remove him from following you.

  • Cruela

    If someone blocked me & my page is public , and a mutal friend liked my photo will it show in thier following feed ?

  • Rashid.Y

    how can I unblock someone who has blocked me too?

    • Hi Rashid. If someone blocks you, you cannot locate their profile by searching for their username normally. Here is the workaround: You’ll need to find their username in a comment or like on another photo (perhaps on a mutual friend’s photo or one of your own photos that they liked or commented on at some point). Then you can click through to their profile and unblock or reblock them.

  • Anon

    I unfollowed an ex and I can still see his profile (which I assume he didn’t block me), buy it says he has 200 photos, but I can only see 195. Can he hide photos from me?

  • Sarah

    My Instagram has been acting very weird lately. My boyfriend tagged me in a picture and it keeps telling me he has no pictures and when I click on the notification it tells me that this user is private, how can I fix this because it’s making us both kinda mad

  • Anon

    I am on private mode and by accident I accepted a request of following I don’t want get to follow me how do I make her unfollow me?

  • yolo9

    Im trying to follow my friend and his account is on private. He requested me and i let him follow me but when i go and press the follow button it will say requested then go back to the blue follow button 🙁 help

    • It sounds like he has blocked you, maybe inadvertently. Ask him to double check that he has not blocked you by going to your profile and tapping the arrow in the upper right. If you are blocked, he will have the option to unblock you.

  • Gemma

    If i follow someone and then unfollow them quickly will they be notified?

  • If you’re following the user you want to track, you can look in your Following Feed. Any comments they post will show up there. I don’t know of any apps or tools that would allow you to access a feed of a user’s comment activity, only their posts. This is regardless of whether you are following them or not.

  • Misskaykay

    I recently unblocked my ex (who has also blocked me) after i unblocked him i recieved a follow request 5 mins later. Before i blocked him he was following me. When you unblock someone does IG automatically send out a follow request to you? Or did my ex have to have clicked follow?

    • Hi, your ex would have had to click to follow you. IG does not send automatic follow requests of any kind — they are always user-generated.

  • Luma

    Is there a way to keep from seeing a friends photos without unfollowing her?
    (She posts at least 12 selfies every day and it’s quite annoying, but I don’t want to unfollow since she only has like 8 followers so she’ll notice for sure and I don’t feel like getting in a fight over something like that.)

    • Hello, there is no way to do this yet like you can on Facebook by hiding someone from appearing in the news feed without unfriending them.

  • astrobevo

    If I accidentally liked a photo, and then immediately unliked it, will my “like” still show up in my follower’s “following” news feeds? Or does it get removed from their “following” news feeds as soon as I “unlike” the photo?

    • Hi, the Like will show in your follower’s “Following” news feeds until they refresh the page, at which point it would disappear. If they did not check their feed between the time you liked and unliked the photo, then pulled up the feed, your like would not appear.

  • Britney Thompson

    if your page is public and someone follows you, why does that make you start following them if you have not went to there page to follow?

    • Instagram does not make you automatically follow anyone. If someone follows you that does not make you follow them. This applies to public and private users. There must be some other explanation.

  • Britney Thompson

    How is it that I am following someone that I never went to there page to follow