Right to privacy — Making Instagram better

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Instagram needs no introduction. It is owned by Facebook Inc and tracks us. All the time. When you are using its application on your smartphone, it keeps track of every scroll, tap, like, comment, share. Everything. When you are not using its app, it has access to your clipboard, location, contacts, microphone. To be honest, having it installed is like living in the prison of Panopticon. But I see you won’t stop using this privacy nightmare, which is why I am writing this article to make Instagram a little privacy friendly, although my first recommendation is to get rid of it. So let’s get started.

Open Instagram settings

Go to the profile section of Instagram app and click on the top right button, a panel will show up. At the bottom you will find settings button. You should see something like the image below:

Go to privacy section of settings

Click on the “Privacy” option in the settings. You should see the screen below:

As you see, there are a lot of privacy settings here. On a closer look, I believe some of the settings are not even about privacy. For example the comment section has setting to block user’s comments from post. That is maybe censorship or filter settings. Instagram? Anyways I will explain each section. You make the decision whether you want that privacy feature or not.

Comments Section

Comments Section
  • Block Comments From: Hide the comments of the selected users from your post. The comment will only be visible to them. No one else.
  • Hide Offensive Comments: Filter comments Instagram feels is derogatory. (I wonder what are those filter words.)
  • Manual Filter: You can add your own filters and restrict them from your posts, stories, etc.

Tags Section

Tags Section
  • Allow Tags From: You can restrict who can tag you on Instagram. Again, I am not sure how is that a privacy setting.
  • Tagged Posts: Choose who can tag you in their photos and videos. If you don’t allow, it will tell the person who tries to tag that you don’t allow it.

Mentions Section

Mentions Section

Choose who can mention you in comments, captions and stories. Also note, people will be aware that you have this setting turned on.

Story Section

Hide Story From
  • Hide Story From: You can hide people from specific users. I recommend that you hide stories from people who you don’t know. Your personal pictures can be downloaded using Instagram mods. If you post a story by mistake, there are ways to view them too. Your pictures can be used in facial detection algorithms and can also be used to make deepfakes.
Close Friends
  • Close Friends: You can make a group of selected people and can post stories to that group only. It is a really nice feature and I highly recommend using it. You can keep your close family members and friends. Stories for general audience can be posted the usual way.
Allow Message Replies
  • Allow Message Replies: Allow story replies from only specific people.
Saving options
  • Saving: Options to save in Gallery and Archive. I would recommend turning off “Save to Archive”. You can choose whether to turn on or off “Save to Gallery”.
Sharing options
  • Sharing: You can choose the extent to which your stories can be shared. Turn off “Share Your Story to Facebook”. This option automatically uploads stories to Facebook story.

Activity Status Section

Activity Status

Enabling this feature shows your last activity on Instagram. I recommend turning this off.

Account Privacy Section

Account Privacy

You must be aware of private and public accounts. Public accounts are mostly used for promotion. Private accounts are for most people who are just using Instagram for social interactions. Unless you are using a professional account, keep this option turned on.

Accounts Section

Restricted, Blocked and Muted accounts

You can also perform 3 types of actions on other user accounts:

  • Restricted Accounts: Restricts unwanted interactions without blocking or unfollowing people you may know.
  • Blocked Accounts: Cuts off any kind of connection with account.
  • Muted Accounts: Mutes any kind of notifications caused by an account.

Go to Ad Settings

Go back to the main settings page, click on “Ads”.

Disappointingly, Instagram does not provide granular controls over Ads. All you have is “Ad Topic Preferences” where you can limit ads on specific topics. There is no way to disable personalized ads. You can limit ads on specific topics by opening “Ad Topic Preferences” and choosing the topics you don’t want. I recommend selecting all topics and press save button.

Ad Topic Preference

Go to Account Settings

Navigate back to main settings page and select “Accounts” and then tap on “Contacts Syncing”, turn off “Connect Contacts”.

Revoke unnecessary permissions from device settings

Most of the privacy settings on Instagram are for privacy from other users, there is no way to turn off what Instagram tracks. Android on the other hand gives some granular controls over permissions that an app has. Go to Applications section in your device settings. Find Instagram you should see a screen similar to below.

Go to “Permissions”, you should see a list of permissions shown in screenshot.

Instagram has a lot of unnecessary permissions and can be revoked. For an ideal user the permissions that are enough to use Instagram are Camera, Microphone and Storage similar to the screenshot below:

Permissions needed for an ideal user of Instagram

Note — For users who only use Instagram to browse content and never use Instagram’s camera, permissions for camera and microphone can also be revoked.

This is all you can do to make Instagram private. I believe Instagram must provide more granular privacy settings. Instagram’s primary revenue is Advertisements but Instagram can provide an option to turn off personalized ads. Also, it is painstakingly hard to make an account without a contact number. It will always be my recommendation to get rid of Instagram. Privacy preserving platforms like Mastodon or Pixelfed are great alternatives to Instagram.

Want more privacy tips? Check out my tutorial on how you can tweak Google’s privacy settings. You can also read my analysis on major messaging platforms.

Feel free to give feedback and suggestion. Also, which platform would you like me to analyze next?