Instagram can be a great place to show off your latest travel photos and food pics, but it’s also a place in which there can be serious privacy concerns like stolen images, unwanted contact from potential harassers, and thirsty folks on the ‘gram who just can’t take no for an answer. If this is unfortunately your normal experience using the app, you can consider going private, but that’s a big step not everyone’s willing to take. Going totally private, after all, means only your followers can see what you post, and so new people won’t be able to discover your photos or interact with you on the app, which can be a fun part of the Instagram experience. There are ways, however, to make your Instagram more private without actually marking it as such, and they might make a big difference in your user experience.
Instead of locking your whole account down, use the below tips — which also can apply to other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter — to narrow down your profile’s reach.
Keep your phone number off of your profile
When you first set up your Instagram profile, there are a few fields that the app asks you to fill out, including your email address, name and phone number. You need to add your name and email, but providing your number isn’t mandatory, and if you want to stay private, Naked Security by British software security firm Sophos recommends not doing it. Giving your number to Instagram means that it can be used by others to find you on the platform, since Instagram has a “Find Friends” feature that lets you search through your phone’s contacts list, Facebook friends and Twitter followers list to discover accounts to follow.
Also, avoid setting up your account via Facebook (there’s a field for other social media accounts you can fill out, but don’t have to), because having your account connected to another social media profile can make you more searchable through said profile.
Turn your activity status off
Instagram has an activity status feature that will show anyone who looks at your profile whether you’re online or not. It’s designated by a green dot next to your picture in your direct messages, and it will show your friends and others who message you when you’re available to DM.
PCMag suggests turning it off when you want to be “left alone,” or to cover up your “true” status while browsing your feed. This will keep your online Instagram browsing time as private as it can be. To find the option, go to Settings and then choose Activity Status to toggle it on or off according to your wishes.
Limit followers to those you know
If you’re on Instagram, followers are usually good news – but not for anyone looking to stay more private on the platform. In a guide to Instagram security, security firm Heimdal Security suggests blocking unknown followers, noting that if you let randoms follow you, you “may start to receive inappropriate comments” or lurkers who “may not interact with your posts in any way.”
So, if you find people following you who you aren’t comfortable with, give the block button a workout, and curate your follower list to those you know in real life or are comfortable with seeing your online life. You can do this easily with Instagram Stories, too, by using the Close Friends list, which allows you to choose the people you want viewing your stories. Since people can’t request to be added to the list, this feature can help ensure your privacy. To enable it, go to Profile in the app and click the three-line button in the top right corner.
Turn on two-factor authentication
Keeping your account safe is tantamount to keeping things private. You don’t want others getting into your Instagram and posting inappropriate imagery, getting access to your personal information, or doing other strange things under your name, right?
Make sure that, like with every other social media account online, you’re using Instagram’s two-factor authentication. This will ensure that you have something to fall back on if your password is compromised. Essentially, when you log in, you’ll be asked for your password. Then, a code will be emailed or texted to the phone number of your choice. You can’t log into your account without this “special code,” which means that even if someone gets your password, without this extra layer of security, they won’t be able to access your account.
Watch what you share
Sometimes, posting images of identifiable information like a piece of mail with your address, medicine bottles with your name and prescriptions on them can lead to precarious situations. You might not think much of a photo taken by your favorite shop on the way home from work, or a selfie by your street sign, but someone else out there might, and use that information to contact or find out more about you.
Be mindful of what you’re putting out there on Instagram, whether that means refraining from posting your real name or tagging friends you know in real life. If near-anonymity is what you wish, this is an extremely important tenet to how you behave on Instagram. And while it may not be the most fun way to live your online life, it’s definitely one of the safest.
Don’t use location services
When you post an image with Instagram’s Location Services active, your photo will be tagged from the location you posted it from. This is turned off by default, but if you’ve turned it on at any time and want to go back to keeping your whereabouts a secret, it’s a good idea to go back and turn off. No one needs to know where you are at any given time, after all, especially if you’re trying to keep things discrete.
With these tips in mind, it should be simpler than ever to keep your Instagram activity and identity private – at least, as private as it can be without hiding your entire profile.