Instagram is owned by Facebook, and Facebook is notorious for tracking you. Instagram and other Facebook companies use your personal information to show targeted ads and to investigate abuse – but this isn’t always the best for you. Here’s how to block Instagram tracking.
There isn’t a lot you can do about your data, but there are some things you can do.
How to block Instagram tracking without tech-savvy methods
Delete (some) of your data
To review the information that you’ve given to Instagram, visit the app’s (or website’s) settings page and tap the security option. If you tap on the ‘Access Data’ button, you’ll be able to see all your password changes, email addresses and phone numbers associated with the account, as well as other information.
In total there are 25 different categories of information that Instagram has collected – ranging from interactions with polls to hashtags you follow to changes you made to your account’s bio. Instagram’s access tool can be found here.
Even though you can see the data, you can’t do much with it. Your search history can be deleted through the Security menu, although when you do so you only delete it on your device, not in the cloud (Instagram and Facebook will always know what you have searched on their platform).
It is possible to delete the contacts that you may have uploaded to Instagram from your phone – this includes names and phone numbers.
This Instagram page shows whether you’ve uploaded any contacts and allows you to delete them. Deleting them will not stop new contacts being added to your phone from being uploaded. The setting can be turned on or off through the settings menu on iOS or Android.
The option to download your data includes photos, comments, profile information and more. This has to be requested through the Security menu.
Most likely, you use Instagram on your phone. By default, Instagram’s location gathering abilities are turned-off, however, you may have unintentionally turned the feature on via adding your location to a post or story. To change this – or at least check if you’ve given it permission – you need to visit the settings on your phone. It can’t be done through the Instagram app or website.
The steps vary between Android and iOS, but:
- For Android: Navigate to settings then tap on apps, and at last find Instagram. Now you can see whether you’ve given Instagram permission to access any personally identifiable data. Now, you can change the settings to allow Instagram access to your location all the time, only while you’re using the app or to completely deny it.
- For iPhone: Tap your way to the phone’s settings, go to privacy and then location services and find Instagram. Here you can choose whether location tracking is on all the time, when you’re using the app or off completely.
Control ads in stories
As Facebook has successfully attempted to further monetize Instagram, it has filled it with adverts. What you see is all powered, technically, by the parent company. Facebook is the ads server for Instagram and the two are inseparable.
Instagram shows you ads based on what it and Facebook think you like. This is based on what you do while on Instagram (e.g. liking posts from particular brands) but also what you do on websites and services not owned by Facebook (more information here).
“Advertisers, app developers and publishers can send us information through Facebook Business Tools that they use, including our social plugins (such as the Like button), Facebook Login, our APIs and SDKs, or the Facebook pixel,” Facebook’s data policy says. (This even includes what you buy and the websites you visit.)
The control you have over this on Instagram is limited. Within the app, though the settings tab, you can see your ad activity. It has a few uses:
- This shows you the ads you have engaged with – such as commenting on posts, liking or watching the majority of.
- There’s also links out of the Instagram app that explain adverts on the platform within the settings tab.
However, you can also control this in Facebook. This is one of the best methods to deal with Instagram tracking.
For any of this to apply to Instagram, the company says your accounts need to be connected. “To make sure your ad preferences are applied, connect your Instagram account to your Facebook account,” Instagram says.
No, I don’t mean the app (but it would be useless to keep it after deleting your account). Just delete your account, and your data will be removed.
This is an optional step only for if you don’t want to go through tech-savvy methods that I will explain below.
How to block Instagram tracking with tech-savvy methods methods
I’ve already explained how to block Instagram tracking earlier for people who want to know how to block Instagram tracking without going into the depths of technology and doing some things they don’t really understand- but if you’re really concerned about your privacy and don’t want to (or if you aren’t able to) delete Instagram altogether, there are a lot of technical ways to protect your privacy and security online.
If you’re interested in these methods, I’d say you’re best learning how to block Instagram tracking (and tracking in general, actually) from the Security Self Defense guide by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, because I am definitely not a cybersecurity or online privacy expert.