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HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY AND STAY SECURE ON INSTAGRAM: 13 TIPS

Everyone knows we pay a price for the use of free social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram. Tech giants gain our private information, which we provide freely with the vague hope that our information will not be used inappropriately.

But there is a more immediate danger to using apps like Instagram with abandon. While we bristle at the omnipresent privacy invasion of data harvesting, we forget that bad actors are lurking everywhere in online land. Our online safety is just as vital as our physical safety and security.

Still, human beings are social animals, and life without the easy sharing of fun ideas, jokes, and messages of support might feel a little flat. The current COVID-19 pandemic also means that many people are staying safe at home, and the need to stay visually connected can be impossible to resist.

IS INSTAGRAM MORE DANGEROUS THAN OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA APPS?

Any app that lets us share pictures or videos can be risky, but, especially for women and teens, Instagram shares tend to be about personal topics. It’s the go-to app for sharing a quick pic of that extra-creamy cappuccino at your local coffee shop (which you won’t share on Facebook for fear of being dubbed a bore with no life, right?) or a quirky snap of your sister’s adorable rugrats doing a bit of gardening among her prized collection of potted orchids.

For such quick, personal posts it’s easy to forget that every post potentially has a geotag, or the option to add a location. If a curious outsider scrutinizes the geotag details, each of these data points will add up to present them with a very comprehensive photographic map of your daily life. Hackers, phishers and online harassers can quite easily find enough information to impersonate you online, invade your physical privacy, or even make off with your hard-earned savings.

Using Instagram can be risky if you don’t take some steps to protect yourself, but before you start googling how to “delete Instagram account” there are several easy steps to make your account harder to hack and to protect yourself from prowlers.

INSTAGRAM’S SAFETY FEATURES

Instagram has many features and settings intended to reduce your exposure to threats. These are good, actionable tips to secure your Instagram account, but remember that the same rules apply for all other social media apps. We’ll look at your online behavior in a moment, but here is a list of physical things you should do right now:

1: A Good Password

Everyone says you should have a good password which you never re-use, especially not for other social media accounts, but in real life, passwords are a huge bother. Your best option is to install a secure password solution (preferably not a free one!) to enforce this very basic rule without having to use the reset password every time you use the account.

2: Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

This is a good defense against outright hacking. Implementing 2FA means you will have to pass a second form of authentication successfully after you enter the correct password. If a hacker does not have access to the second form of authentication (usually a device), they can’t get into your account even if they have your password.

3: Disable Activity Status

The Instagram feature that allows people to see when you are active can be deactivated so that people can’t see exactly when you are online. That little green dot next to a friend’s picture in your DM’s won’t be there anymore, which will give you a little more privacy on days when you would prefer to take it easy on Instagram. 

Settings > Privacy > Activity Status and toggle the option off.

4: Check Your Followers

Are lurkers good or bad? Before you set your account to private (Step 5) review your followers to make sure they are people you are comfortable sharing your private information with. You can inspect accounts to help you decide to keep or cull.

Go to your profile > Followers > check a few details about each. If you spot someone you are not sure about, visit their profile.

Go to the follower’s profile > Menu > About this Account. You can see when the user joined, his history of username changes, location of the account holder, what ads they are running, and shared followers. While it is human nature to feel flattered when unknown people start following us it’s best to be a little skeptical. If you can’t get a clear sense of why this person is following you, remove or block them.

5: Set Your Account To Private

Limit the reach of the content you publish by setting your account to private. Public Instagram accounts allow anyone to see your images. When you set your account to private, only your followers can see the content that you share and which posts you’ve liked. Perhaps more importantly, Google Images won’t automatically index your photos. Remember that you will need to approve individual follower requests in the future.

Profile icon > Edit Your Profile > Posts are Private and toggle the option on

6: Revoke Third-Party Apps

Can you remember why you gave that third-party app access to your Instagram account? If you are not sure, be brutal. Remove any that you do not recognize. If you truly need it, you’ll find out soon enough, and it’s always a quick and easy process to re-approve the access.

Settings > Security > Apps and Websites

7: Be A Little Mysterious

Unless you are a celebrity, don’t use your real name but rather pick a fun username. Never mention your hometown, birthday or birth year, first or last name, or favorite pets. An absolute online no-no is having a close-up of your face as a profile pic.

Change your Instagram username > Profile icon > Edit Your Profile > Enter your fun new name and tap “Save” or “Done”. 

While you’re in your profile, change your profile pic. Tap your current profile picture and follow the prompts to add a fresh pic.

8: Location Options

Every photo you post has a geotag or added location option, a big risk particularly if you post photos of your home or family. If you don’t want to tip off burglars, don’t tag your check-ins while you’re away for the weekend or you might come home to an empty house! It’s also not a good idea to let everyone know where you’re hanging out at 2 AM. Turn off the default location services for Instagram.

Settings > Privacy > Location toggle to off

9: Now Take A Few Extra Precautions

If you have reason to believe you’ve been just a little too trusting in the past, you should go back to all those check-ins made at home, at work and while away on a happy shopping jaunt. You can remove check-ins on your previous posts:

Find a photo with location attached > Options menu > Edit > Delete photo’s location / description

10: Manage Photo Tags by default

You’ve just deactivated location settings … and a friend posts a photo of you, sunning on a beach in Bali, with a location tag, for the world to see.

If it’s a great photo you might want everyone to see it – unless there’s some reason you don’t want it known that you’ve been lounging around on Bali beaches!

You can either remove tags or remove individual items by hiding images from your profile.

Profile > Photos of You > Menu button > Add photos manually

If you want to further restrict eyeballs on that photo and also reserve the option to approve images before they appear on your profile:

Settings > Privacy > Tags > Switch the Add Automatically toggle off.

11: It’s your account. Control Comments And Stories

There’s no need to grin and bear inappropriate or unpleasant interactions with your photos and posts. If you post a photo but don’t want Aunt Delia to comment on your hairstyle, turn off commenting by tapping the three-dot icon on your post > Turn Off Commenting.

You can also choose to hide your photo from Aunt Delia or stop her from sharing it:

Settings > Privacy > Story

12: When Aunt Delia gets Disruptive

You can mute, restrict or block a follower you don’t feel comfortable with, but if you feel that someone is posting inappropriate or harmful content, you should report them to Instagram. There are several ways of doing this, and if the Instagram investigation finds that their terms of service have been breached they will suspend the account. If it is more a “hassle” factor, you can manually block the account:

Navigate to the account > Menu > Select Block.

13: Monitor Your Login Activity

Back to hackers: keep a watch on your login activity through your desktop Settings panel > Login Activity. On this page, you can verify your current device or location, check other locations where you may have logged in, and use the very handy option of logging out from all the devices you are not currently using. If the activity seems suspicious, change your password at once.

A FINAL THOUGHT ON SAFETY ON INSTAGRAM DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Almost half of the world’s population is marking time in relative isolation at the moment. Online sharing via social media apps is a great way to stay connected and combat feelings of isolation and anxiety. But do mitigate your risk by making a few smart changes to your Instagram settings.

Protect your identity and personal information, and take care not to share photos that show your house number, street name, or children’s names.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY AND STAY SECURE ON INSTAGRAM: 13 TIPS

Everyone knows we pay a price for the use of free social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram. Tech giants gain our private information, which we provide freely with the vague hope that our information will not be used inappropriately.

But there is a more immediate danger to using apps like Instagram with abandon. While we bristle at the omnipresent privacy invasion of data harvesting, we forget that bad actors are lurking everywhere in online land. Our online safety is just as vital as our physical safety and security.

Still, human beings are social animals, and life without the easy sharing of fun ideas, jokes, and messages of support might feel a little flat. The current COVID-19 pandemic also means that many people are staying safe at home, and the need to stay visually connected can be impossible to resist.

IS INSTAGRAM MORE DANGEROUS THAN OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA APPS?

Any app that lets us share pictures or videos can be risky, but, especially for women and teens, Instagram shares tend to be about personal topics. It’s the go-to app for sharing a quick pic of that extra-creamy cappuccino at your local coffee shop (which you won’t share on Facebook for fear of being dubbed a bore with no life, right?) or a quirky snap of your sister’s adorable rugrats doing a bit of gardening among her prized collection of potted orchids.

For such quick, personal posts it’s easy to forget that every post potentially has a geotag, or the option to add a location. If a curious outsider scrutinizes the geotag details, each of these data points will add up to present them with a very comprehensive photographic map of your daily life. Hackers, phishers and online harassers can quite easily find enough information to impersonate you online, invade your physical privacy, or even make off with your hard-earned savings.

Using Instagram can be risky if you don’t take some steps to protect yourself, but before you start googling how to “delete Instagram account” there are several easy steps to make your account harder to hack and to protect yourself from prowlers.

INSTAGRAM’S SAFETY FEATURES

Instagram has many features and settings intended to reduce your exposure to threats. These are good, actionable tips to secure your Instagram account, but remember that the same rules apply for all other social media apps. We’ll look at your online behavior in a moment, but here is a list of physical things you should do right now:

1: A Good Password

Everyone says you should have a good password which you never re-use, especially not for other social media accounts, but in real life, passwords are a huge bother. Your best option is to install a secure password solution (preferably not a free one!) to enforce this very basic rule without having to use the reset password every time you use the account.

2: Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

This is a good defense against outright hacking. Implementing 2FA means you will have to pass a second form of authentication successfully after you enter the correct password. If a hacker does not have access to the second form of authentication (usually a device), they can’t get into your account even if they have your password.

3: Disable Activity Status

The Instagram feature that allows people to see when you are active can be deactivated so that people can’t see exactly when you are online. That little green dot next to a friend’s picture in your DM’s won’t be there anymore, which will give you a little more privacy on days when you would prefer to take it easy on Instagram. 

Settings > Privacy > Activity Status and toggle the option off.

4: Check Your Followers

Are lurkers good or bad? Before you set your account to private (Step 5) review your followers to make sure they are people you are comfortable sharing your private information with. You can inspect accounts to help you decide to keep or cull.

Go to your profile > Followers > check a few details about each. If you spot someone you are not sure about, visit their profile.

Go to the follower’s profile > Menu > About this Account. You can see when the user joined, his history of username changes, location of the account holder, what ads they are running, and shared followers. While it is human nature to feel flattered when unknown people start following us it’s best to be a little skeptical. If you can’t get a clear sense of why this person is following you, remove or block them.

5: Set Your Account To Private

Limit the reach of the content you publish by setting your account to private. Public Instagram accounts allow anyone to see your images. When you set your account to private, only your followers can see the content that you share and which posts you’ve liked. Perhaps more importantly, Google Images won’t automatically index your photos. Remember that you will need to approve individual follower requests in the future.

Profile icon > Edit Your Profile > Posts are Private and toggle the option on

6: Revoke Third-Party Apps

Can you remember why you gave that third-party app access to your Instagram account? If you are not sure, be brutal. Remove any that you do not recognize. If you truly need it, you’ll find out soon enough, and it’s always a quick and easy process to re-approve the access.

Settings > Security > Apps and Websites

7: Be A Little Mysterious

Unless you are a celebrity, don’t use your real name but rather pick a fun username. Never mention your hometown, birthday or birth year, first or last name, or favorite pets. An absolute online no-no is having a close-up of your face as a profile pic.

Change your Instagram username > Profile icon > Edit Your Profile > Enter your fun new name and tap “Save” or “Done”. 

While you’re in your profile, change your profile pic. Tap your current profile picture and follow the prompts to add a fresh pic.

8: Location Options

Every photo you post has a geotag or added location option, a big risk particularly if you post photos of your home or family. If you don’t want to tip off burglars, don’t tag your check-ins while you’re away for the weekend or you might come home to an empty house! It’s also not a good idea to let everyone know where you’re hanging out at 2 AM. Turn off the default location services for Instagram.

Settings > Privacy > Location toggle to off

9: Now Take A Few Extra Precautions

If you have reason to believe you’ve been just a little too trusting in the past, you should go back to all those check-ins made at home, at work and while away on a happy shopping jaunt. You can remove check-ins on your previous posts:

Find a photo with location attached > Options menu > Edit > Delete photo’s location / description

10: Manage Photo Tags by default

You’ve just deactivated location settings … and a friend posts a photo of you, sunning on a beach in Bali, with a location tag, for the world to see.

If it’s a great photo you might want everyone to see it – unless there’s some reason you don’t want it known that you’ve been lounging around on Bali beaches!

You can either remove tags or remove individual items by hiding images from your profile.

Profile > Photos of You > Menu button > Add photos manually

If you want to further restrict eyeballs on that photo and also reserve the option to approve images before they appear on your profile:

Settings > Privacy > Tags > Switch the Add Automatically toggle off.

11: It’s your account. Control Comments And Stories

There’s no need to grin and bear inappropriate or unpleasant interactions with your photos and posts. If you post a photo but don’t want Aunt Delia to comment on your hairstyle, turn off commenting by tapping the three-dot icon on your post > Turn Off Commenting.

You can also choose to hide your photo from Aunt Delia or stop her from sharing it:

Settings > Privacy > Story

12: When Aunt Delia gets Disruptive

You can mute, restrict or block a follower you don’t feel comfortable with, but if you feel that someone is posting inappropriate or harmful content, you should report them to Instagram. There are several ways of doing this, and if the Instagram investigation finds that their terms of service have been breached they will suspend the account. If it is more a “hassle” factor, you can manually block the account:

Navigate to the account > Menu > Select Block.

13: Monitor Your Login Activity

Back to hackers: keep a watch on your login activity through your desktop Settings panel > Login Activity. On this page, you can verify your current device or location, check other locations where you may have logged in, and use the very handy option of logging out from all the devices you are not currently using. If the activity seems suspicious, change your password at once.

A FINAL THOUGHT ON SAFETY ON INSTAGRAM DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Almost half of the world’s population is marking time in relative isolation at the moment. Online sharing via social media apps is a great way to stay connected and combat feelings of isolation and anxiety. But do mitigate your risk by making a few smart changes to your Instagram settings.

Protect your identity and personal information, and take care not to share photos that show your house number, street name, or children’s names.

Happy, safe sharing!

Happy, safe sharing!