What Does Instagram Know About You? [Permission Restriction Tips]

Reading time: 9 min read
Muninder Adavelli
Written by
Muninder Adavelli

Updated · Jul 27, 2023

Muninder Adavelli
Digital Growth Strategist | Joined October 2021 | Twitter LinkedIn
Muninder Adavelli

Muninder Adavelli is a core team member and Digital Growth Strategist at Techjury. With a strong bac... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
Edited by
April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

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With 2 billion active users in 2022, Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform on the Internet.

It’s also one of the most invasive apps in the world that collects a lot of data from its users. 

But what does Instagram know about you exactly?

Read on to find out.

What Does Instagram Know About You?

We’ve all heard stories of users who have claimed that Instagram showed them ads of products and services they discussed with their friends, family, and/or colleagues with their phones in the near vicinity. 

If you’ve experienced anything remotely similar, you’re probably wondering “Is Instagram listening to me?”

Not according to Instagram. 

But, the app does require access to a lot of apps on your phone (You can check the full list in the Permission tab), one of which is your mic.

Make of that what you will.

So what data does Instagram collect?

Here’s a short list taken from Instagram’s data policy page;

  • The information and content you provide.
  • All of your connections and networks across Meta.
  • How you use Instagram and any other services under the vast Meta umbrella.
  • Your Meta-related transactions.
  • Information other users provide about you.

And that’s not including the data Instagram collects on your devices (phone, computer, TV, and any other device you can use to log into Instagram), such as device attributes, signals, operations, identifiers, settings, network and connections, and cookies.

In other words, the app collects information on virtually anything it can get its hands on. 

Meta says that they’re doing it for your sake: To personalize your ad experience, connect you with the right people and pages, and for security reasons.

Let’s dive into the specifics.

How Does Instagram Track Your Habits?

Instagram knows everything you do on the app. Every thumb scroll made through your feed tells Instagram something about your behavior. 

Instagram knows that you spent 20 minutes scrolling on your favorite celebrity’s profile at 3 a.m. in the morning. It also knows that 20% of the people you follow are in the entertainment industry and that you recently looked up VPNs that work on Netflix.

This is the type of information we’re willingly submitting for Instagram to dissect and create a user profile on each of us. 

Instagram also shows a small subsection of the data to others on Instagram. It shows when we’ve published a picture or a video, when we’ve shared a Story, and when we’re online (Active in the chat).

Although there is very little you can do to stop Instagram from tracking your behavior– other than deleting the app, you can limit who can see whether you’re online or not:

  1. Open your Instagram app, and tap your profile icon.
  2. Tap the three-line menu.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Click on Privacy.
  5. Tap Activity Status.
  6. Slide the toggle to the left next to Show Activity Status to turn it off.

How Does Instagram Know What I Google?

What you do within Instagram and Facebook helps Instagram select ads it thinks you’ll be interested in.

A good part of this is right there in your Instagram account.

The app keeps an Ad Interests page for every user. You can find yours under Ad Settings in your account. This is where they list the things that they think you’re interested in— all based on your behavior on the platform.

But, there’s virtually nobody in the online world with a social media presence that uses only one app. A truly curated ad experience requires understanding a user’s behavior in the parts of the Internet that Facebook doesn’t own too.

Instagram doesn’t “know” what you Google. But it can find out what websites you visit thanks to Meta’s Pixel.

If the website you visit runs ads on Instagram or Facebook (and most do) it needs the Meta Pixel, a small piece of code, to track conversions and other data to figure out the success of the ad campaign.

This piece of code gathers data about your activity on the website and links to an identifier, which helps Instagram understand what ads you’ll be shown.

How to switch off Ads Data From Instagram Partners?

If you’re looking for answers to “how to stop ads on Instagram in 2022?” you won’t find them.

Instagram is unlikely to stop running ads on its platforms or limit them to certain users simply because they’re a massive money-maker.

That said, you can prevent the app from showing your personalized apps based on the data it’s collecting from its partners (i.e. companies that are running ads on Meta).

To switch it off:

  1. Open your Instagram app.
  2. Navigate to your profile icon and click on the three-line menu.
  3. Select Settings and tap Ads.
  4. Under Ad preferences, tap on Data about your activity from partners.
  5. Tap on the toggle next to Use data from partners to turn it off.

Does Instagram Track You?

Apps like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat keep track of your exact location, usually, with your permission.

When you install the Instagram app on your phone, you grant it access to a variety of features, such as your camera, microphone, contacts, and even your photo gallery. This list usually includes location.

The main reason that Instagram asks for access to your location is that it has features that do not work without it. For example, adding a location tag to your photo or video requires having your Location Services enabled. 

But, Instagram doesn’t need you to allow it access to your location to pinpoint you. The app needs to know where you are in the world so it knows what ads it should show you (and often in what language they should be). 

As soon as you log in, Instagram determines your location – also called primary location– based on your device’s IP address. It also uses the information it gathers from your behavior on the app to figure out where you are.

How to stop Instagram from tracking you?

The default setting for location on Instagram is off and you’ll need to give the app permission when you want to use features like location tags.

To turn location services on or off on your iPhone:

  1. Go to your iPhone's Settings.
  2. Tap Privacy, then select Location Services.
  3. Scroll down to find Instagram and tap on it.
  4. Select Never.

On Android devices:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Select Location
  3. Slide the toggle to turn it off or tap on Instagram and select Don’t allow

Worth noting: iPhone users who have iOS 14 or higher can turn off precise location tracking so that apps can only get information about your approximate location rather than your exact coordinates. The feature is called “Precise Location” and you can turn it off under Location in your iPhone’s Settings.

Can Instagram Access My Contacts?

Instagram can access your contact if you allow it. It’s one of the features that you grant the app permission to access when you install it on your devices.

Instagram needs to access your contact for its built-in contacts syncing feature to work. This feature recommends profiles for you to follow based on your contact list.

How to stop Instagram from accessing your contacts?

If you also want to disable Contact Syncing on Instagram:

  1. Go to your Profile page on Instagram.
  2. Tap the three-line menu and select Settings.
  3. Tap Account and select Contacts syncing.
  4. Tap the toggle next to Connect Contacts to turn it off or on.

How Can I Control Instagram From Accessing My Data? 

Short of deleting the app altogether, there is no way to stop Instagram from gathering information about you. But, Instagram does allow users control over some of its data.

Here’s what you can do to minimize Instagram access to your information:

Adjust Your Privacy Settings on Instagram

There are several privacy settings you can tweak to protect your data and privacy on Instagram. 

Set up two-factor authentication

Setting up a two-factor authentication makes it harder for bad actors to break into your account. You can add two-factor authentication in Security under Settings. 

Control your profile visibility

Your Instagram profile is public by default and anyone, including people who aren’t on Instagram, can see your post or videos. You can set your account to private in your Instagram Settings, under Privacy. 

Turn off Resharing to Stories

70% of users watch Instagram stories daily. If you want to prevent people from sharing your Instagram Stories or your posts to their Stories, you can turn that feature off in the Privacy Section.

Limit Tags

You can limit who can tag you in their posts and stories in the Privacy section under Settings. 


A VPN encrypts traffic and hides your IP address. This can prevent snoopers from spying on your online activity and Instagram from figuring out your location.

If you want to get a VPN, but aren’t sure where to start looking, here are our top 10 choices for the best VPNs for 2022.

How Can I Control Instagram From Accessing My Data From Other Websites?

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to prevent Instagram from using the data it gathers from its partners when you visit their websites. 

Clear cookies from your browser

You can clear the cookies from your browser, which will stop Instagram from showing you the same ads:

  1. Open your browser. 
  2. Click on the three dots in the top right-side corner to open the drop-down menu.
  3. Select History and tap on Clear browsing data from the left-side menu.
  4. Select Cookies and other site data.
  5. Click Clear Data.

If you want to take it a step further, you can prevent sites from collecting cookies by using Incognito Mode or decline cookies when you visit a website.

Delete the app

The only way to stop Instagram from tracking you is to delete the app altogether.

  1. Log into your account on the web.
  2. Open the Delete Your Account page.
  3. Select an option from the menu on why you want to delete your account.
  4. Re-enter your password.
  5. Click Delete.

If you don’t want to delete your account, you can deactivate it. 

Note: Instagram won’t remove all of the data it has on you right away. It will retain some of it for a couple of months, for legal purposes. 

Bottom Line

Data is at the heart of Instagram’s financial success; The app relies on the data it collects to power its advertising and provides users with a personalized experience on the app. That requires a lot of information, from your behavior on the app to the sites you visit outside of it, your location, and even your contact list. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop it from accessing some of this data.


Can someone tell if I've looked at their Instagram?

Instagram doesn’t allow users to see who viewed their profile.

Does Instagram know your IP address?

Instagram uses your device’s  IP address to figure out your location. You can hide it with a VPN.

Can Instagram see what you are doing?

Instagram can see everything you’re doing on the app.

Can you be tracked on Instagram?

Instagram knows your location based on your device’s IP address.

What does Instagram know about you?

A lot. It tracks your behavior on the app, your location, and your connections and networks on the app. Instagram even knows what sites you’ve visited outside of the platform.


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