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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

What You Need To Know About Instagram’s Privacy Policy

Learn about Instagram's privacy policy before you use the service.

If you’re a regular Facebook user, you’ve probably encountered Instagram photos at some point. In fact, there’s a good chance that you have an account yourself. Instagram has about 400 million monthly users, according to Ad Week, making it one of the most popular social networks in the world. And since it’s been owned by Facebook since 2012, Instagram is strongly integrated within that platform. In this series we're exploring privacy policies, we already addressed Facebook's, now here's what you need to know about Instagram's privacy policy.

Unlike other social networks that allow users to share all types of media, Instagram is largely focused on photo and video sharing. Known for its many digital filters and its square aspect ratio – reminiscent of photos taken by old Kodak or Polaroid cameras – Instagram became popular among those who like to add a little flair to their images. In the latest installment of this series, we’ll look at the ways in which Instagram uses the information that it collects from its users. While it may seem as if there is little that a social network can learn from pictures and video alone, this could not be further from the truth.

What information does Instagram collect?

In its company privacy policy, Instagram clearly lays out what it collects from users:

  • User provided information, such as names, email addresses and phone numbers.
  • Data on how people use Instagram, collected through cookies placed by either the company or third-party advertisers.
  • Analytics from third-parties focusing on websites that users visit in addition to Instagram.
  • Device identifiers, making it clear whether users are logging in through their personal computers or mobile devices.
  • Content metadata, such as hashtags, geotags or user comments.

Why does Instagram need this information?

Instagram makes money by selling advertisements, and the most effective way to do so is to place ads that are the most likely to be interesting to you, the user. According to its privacy policy, Instagram uses information about what you tend to focus on when you browse the internet. For instance, if you’ve spent the past several days searching for appliance for your new kitchen, you may start to see similar ads when you log in to Instagram.

But the platform’s data collection isn’t just about ads. Instagram also uses this information to make its service better. This includes little things, like keeping you logged in from the devices that you use the most, as well as more complicated tasks, such as using data to fix bugs.

How can I limit what Instagram learns about me?

Just because Instagram collects your information for advertisers doesn’t mean there aren’t any ways for you to limit your visibility. Given the growing threat of identity theft, it is important for all internet users to be mindful of what they post about themselves.

Maybe you don’t want to broadcast your photos to all of your followers. Instagram allows users to set photos and videos to private so only approved followers can view them. This can be done through the Account Settings page, where it is relatively simple to activate the service’s privacy option.

Instagram’s help page states that your photos may appear in Google search results if you sign in through a web viewer. However, it is possible to prevent this from happening. All you have to do is set your account to private.

Finally, you can limit Instagram’s ability to track your location, especially when you are on a mobile device. According to The Daily Dot, you should not only turn off any location settings in the Instagram app on your mobile device, but also check your profile page for the list of all of your photo geotags. These give Instagram a good estimate of where you spend most of your time, but you can delete them in bulk.

It’s always a good idea to be proactive about your privacy and be on the lookout for ways in which the information you post on social networks could compromise your security. That’s why Identity Guard’s identity theft protection service is so vital. By keeping an eye on your Social Security Number and monitoring your credit files, our service can alert you to certain activity that could be indicative of fraud.

Check out our previous article about Spotify’s privacy policy and look for the next article in our Privacy Policy Series.