How to stop Instagram from harvesting so much of your data

Instagram data collection can be a lot, but you can take steps to protect your privacy

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Webster2703 via Pixabay |
Companies like Instagram collect a ton of consumer data.

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Khloe Young-Neawedde

Editorial Intern, Don't Sell My Data campaign

If you use Instagram, the app is collecting data about you. It tracks every post you view, every account you follow and every ad you click on. It can track your location and other preferences. Instagram shares this information with third parties for targeted advertising which might be helpful, but many find annoying and invasive. It also uses your data to curate your feed, which is designed to be as addictive as possible. 

You can update your settings to help protect your information, data and even brain space. You’ll need to do this both within Instagram itself, and in your phone’s general settings.

Stop Instagram from collecting your location data

If you want to protect your location from Instagram, you have to adjust the settings in your phone. Here we walk through how to do it on your iPhone.

  1. In your Settings, click Privacy & Security. It’s towards the bottom of the list.
  2. Select Location Services.

  3. Select Instagram from the list of apps. (But take advantage of the opportunity to turn it off for as many of the apps as you can while you’re here.)
  4. Set it how you want. We recommend selecting “Never”.

Stop advertisers from using your Instagram data

To stop advertisers from using your Instagram data to target you with ads, you need to adjust the settings within the Instagram app itself. This one is a bit more involved (thanks Instagram).

  1. Inside the app, go to your profile and click the icon of the 3 bars in the top right
  2. Click on Settings & Privacy.
  3. Select Account Center.
  4. Go to Ad Preferences.
  5. Select Ad Settings.
  6. Then select Activity Information From Ad Partners.
  7. This will lead out of the app to a web browser. Here you want to click the blue Review Setting button.
  8. Finally, click “No, don’t make my ads more relevant by using this information“.

Congrats! You’ve now officially taken more control of your Instagram data.

If you want to request a copy of the data Instagram has already collected on you, we have a guide for getting ahold of your data.

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Khloe Young-Neawedde

Editorial Intern, Don't Sell My Data campaign

R.J. Cross

Director, Don't Sell My Data Campaign, PIRG

R.J. focuses on data privacy issues and the commercialization of personal data in the digital age. Her work ranges from consumer harms like scams and data breaches, to manipulative targeted advertising, to keeping kids safe online. In her work at Frontier Group, she has authored research reports on government transparency, predatory auto lending and consumer debt. Her work has appeared in WIRED magazine, CBS Mornings and USA Today, among other outlets. When she’s not protecting the public interest, she is an avid reader, fiction writer and birder.

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