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How to stop Instagram from tracking what you do

Written by  Jun 15, 2020

Updating your settings can’t be done through the Instagram app.

On Android, navigate to settings then tap on apps and find Instagram. Here you can see whether you’ve given it permission to access your location, microphone, device storage, contacts and more. You can turn these settings on and off, allowing Instagram access to your location all the time, only while you’re using the app or to completely deny it.

If you own an iPhone, the process is similar. 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 tried (successfully) to make more money from 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. Facebook's Pixel is a tiny piece of code that’s on almost every website you visit and collects information saying you have visited it. The Pixel gathers data about your activity online and links it to an identifier and that helps decide what ads you’ll be shown.

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Also see: How to Remove a Virus From an iPhone

It’s just one way data is collected that feeds into the company’s bigger advertising machine. “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 includes what you buy and the websites you visit.

So what can you do about it on Instagram? The controls are limited. Within the app, though the settings tab, you can see your ad activity. 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 ads on the platform within the settings tab.

If you don’t like an individual ad it is possible to hide it by tapping the three dots that appear next to the ad and tapping hide. It’s also possible to report an ad if it could break Instagram’s policies.

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To really attempt to control ads on Instagram, you need to go to Facebook. Here it’s possible to change preference settings, which will apply to Instagram as well as Facebook. There are no ad preference settings for people who only have an Instagram account and not a Facebook account. The company says it is working on building controls within the Instagram app.

Facebook’s ad preferences page is a mine of information. It shows what Facebook thinks your interests are, companies that have uploaded information about you, how ads are targeted, ad settings, and ads you’ve hidden. To change the ads you see you need to spend a short amount of time on this page working through the settings.

Some key choices that can be made are in ‘Your Information.’ Here you chose not to see ads that are based on your employer, job title, relationship status and education. The businesses section allows you to stop businesses who have uploaded information about you from showing you ads. And ‘Ad Settings’ stops Facebook products showing you ads based on information that’s collected from other websites and services you visit.


Amanda Dresler

A very experienced freelance tech journalist who now prefers to work from home and has such a broad range of knowledge accrued over the years, we would not cope without her influence and ideas.

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