Instagram privacy and security

Share your photos without compromising yourself.

Using Instagram is easy: snap a photo, add a filter and a comment, tap Share. But Instagram, like every social media app, can expose you in ways you never intended. Follow these five tips to stay safe on Instagram.

Know what info Instagram collects

You know that Instagram has your username, password, and email address, but the app also collects your first and last name, picture, and phone number so that other users can find you. If you would like to add your contacts, then you must grant Instagram access. Ditto for letting the app search contacts from a third-party site. Analytics info, cookies, log file info, and device identifiers may also be collected, used, and shared with third parties for quicker sign-ins, to collect demographic info, to develop and test features, and to show you more relevant ads.

Don't be too visible

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By default, all Instagram profiles and posts are viewable by anyone. If you're concerned about being too exposed, then set your account to private. Then only the followers you approve can see your posts, locations, likes, or follower lists. In the iOS app, tap the Profile icon and the Settings icon, then turn on Private Account. Android users should tap the Profile icon and the More button, then turn on Private Account.

Setting your account to private also ensures that Instagram doesn't feature one of your posts in its Search & Explore section. If one of your photos is already featured and you want it off, tap the More button and then Delete. However, your comments on public pages will still be visible, and your username will still be clickable from there. If you use Instagram to post to another social network, such as Facebook or Twitter, your posts will be viewable there unless you adjust privacy settings in those services.

Unfollow, block, and report other users

If you no longer wish to see someone else's content, first unfollow them. To unfollow someone, tap the Search and Explore button, enter their name or username, then tap Following and then Unfollow.

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To delete or report an abusive or spamming comment, swipe it from left to right (iOS) or tap it (Android) and then tap the delete or flagging button.

To report an offensive photo or video, tap the More button on the bottom-right corner and then tap Report.

To report a user for sending you abusive messages over Instagram Direct, tap and hold the message, then select Report. Your reports are kept anonymous.

You can also block users, who then won't be able to see your posts, follower lists, or even your profile. To block another user entirely, tap their username to open their profile, then tap the More button and Block User.

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If you later wish to unblock them, follow the same path and then tap Unblock User.

Secure your account

Start by selecting a strong password. Instagram recommends that you use a mix of at least six letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, distinct from any other password you're currently using. Check out our tips for creating a strong password. Or, if you want to take the stress out of password generation or remembering and entering passwords, then check out our picks of the best password managers.

It's also good practice to log out each time you visit Instagram from a public computer and to never authorize untrusted third-party apps. If someone is impersonating you on Instagram, head to the Impersonation Accounts page for more info. If your account has been hacked, then report it under Hacked Accounts. If you suspect that your account has been compromised in any way, follow these steps to reset your password. Tap the Profile icon, the Settings icon, and Change Password. Enter your old and new password, then tap Save.

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Act responsibly

Instagram's community guidelines aim to protect the human rights and intellectual property rights of an incredibly diverse audience. To use the service, you must agree to post photos and videos that are appropriate for all ages (nudity and extreme violence are not allowed); to never spam, shame, or threaten other users; and to never promote violence, self-injury, or illegal activity on Instagram. Head to Instagram's Report Something page to notify Instagram of any violations to these guidelines.

Instagram also admonishes users to post only their own content. To report another user for unlawfully posting your content, fill out this form.

More Resources

Security and Antivirus Center

How to stay secure on Facebook

How to protect your privacy on Facebook

About Joshua Rotter

Joshua Rotter is a copy editor for Download.com and covers iOS.

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