An image of the Instagram app on a mobile phone. Adjusting your Instagram privacy settings is an easy way to stay safe online.

If you're an Instagram user, the social platform likely knows a lot about you, and it shares your data with its parent company, Facebook. But while Instagram has fewer privacy controls than Facebook, there are settings you can adjust if you want to protect your personal information.

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"Using data from the different apps helps us provide people with a more streamlined and better experience across our products," said Instagram spokesperson Stephanie Noon in an email. "The Facebook companies also share infrastructure, systems and technology to improve our products and features across the board."

Facebook uses data collected through Instagram, such as who you follow and location information, for targeted advertising and other purposes.  

But Instagram provides several controls so you can keep your posts visible to a select audience, adjust targeted advertising, and more. Most users access Instagram through the app, but some of the platform's privacy settings are only accessible when you log in using a browser.

Take Away Instagram’s Location Privileges

Giving Instagram access to your whereabouts lets you tag your posts with your location, which could help you make your followers extra jealous when you post vacation pics. Location data can also be used to show you more relevant content when you’re using the Explore tab, which lets you browse posts from people other than those you follow.

But your location data can also be used to tailor ads to you, and not just on Instagram—the data is connected to your Facebook profile. If you’re not comfortable with that, it’s easy to turn off the app’s access to your device's GPS. You can always switch it back on later if you want to tag posts, or you can manually enter your location.

Facebook and Instagram can still learn your location using other information, including your IP address and WiFi connection, but revoking GPS permissions will limit the accuracy of the data you hand over.

On an iPhone: Go to the phone’s Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Instagram > Never.

On an Android phone: Go to the phone’s Settings > Permissions > Your Location > Switch off the toggle for Instagram.

Make Ads a Little Less Personal

Instagram doesn't have ad settings of its own. You need to use the settings on your Facebook account to make changes, and if you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re out of luck.

If you do use Facebook, the company says it will attempt to apply your ad settings globally, across all of its properties including Instagram and WhatsApp.

You can’t opt out of targeted advertising altogether, but two Facebook settings will help keep it in check. One prevents the company from using data collected from third parties for advertising, and another will stop Facebook from showing you ads on other websites based on your activity on Facebook's own services.

The following instructions will walk you through the settings on a browser, but you can adjust them in the Facebook app as well.

On a computer: Log in to Facebook > Click the downward arrow in the top right corner > Settings > Ads > Ad settings > Click “Ads based on data from partners” and select “Not Allowed.” Then do the same for “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere.” 

Keep Posts Between You and Your Friends

By default, Instagram makes your account visible to anyone using the app. However you can make your account private. Then, people will need to send a request to follow you before they can see your posts and videos.

Instagram says turning the setting on won’t affect anyone who already follows you. They'll still be able to see your posts.

On the app: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Click the menu icon in the top right > Settings > Switch on the toggle for “Private Account.” 

Protect Your Account From Hackers

One of the easiest ways to boost your security is to use two-factor authentication, which is available for many services. Even banks use it.

If you turn it on, Instagram will text you a code that it will use to confirm your identity whenever you log in from a new browser or an unfamiliar device.

If you’d rather not use text messages for this, or would prefer not to give Facebook your phone number, Instagram will also let you set up two-factor authentication using an app on your phone, such as Google Authenticator or Duo Mobile.

With two-factor authentication on, no one will be able to log in to your account unless they have access to both your phone and your password.

On the app: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Click the menu icon in the top right > Settings > Two-Factor Authentication > Get Started > Select “Text Message” or “Authentication App.”

Limit Data Sharing With Other Companies

You can connect Instagram to third-party apps, such as VSCO, Sprout Social, and Later, which some people use to do things like schedule posts, edit photos, and analyze followers’ interactions with their posts.

Apps connected to your Instagram account can access some of your data. There haven’t been any notable data breaches on Instagram, but the more apps you tie together, the more vulnerable you are to security risks. Third-party apps played a big role in the the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the recent Google+ data bug.

Instagram makes it easy to examine what kind of data and permissions you’ve made available to other apps, and revoke access for apps you’re uncomfortable with or that you don’t use anymore.

To do this, you’ll need to log onto Instagram through a browser. These instructions are for the browser on your phone, but the process is similar on a computer browser.

On a phone browser: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Click the gear icon in the top left > Authorized Apps > Revoke Access.

Stop Syncing Your Contacts

Instagram uses a number of tools to recommend new accounts for you to follow. One method is to periodically scan the contacts on your phone, if you’ve granted Instagram permission to access them.

Once you grant any company access to your contacts list, it's hard to know just what they'll do with it. A recent report from researchers at Princeton and Northeastern University suggests that Facebook uses information from users’ address books to target their friends with ads.

If you’ve given Instagram permission to scan your contacts, it’s not too late to change your mind.

On the app: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Click the menu icon in the top right corner > Settings > Contacts Syncing > Switch the toggle off.

That doesn't delete contacts from your Instagram account that the company has already uploaded, however. You can do that by using a computer.

On a computer browser: Log into Instagram > Click the person-shaped icon in the top right corner > Click the gear icon to the right of your username > Privacy and Security > Manage Contacts > Delete All.

Don’t Broadcast That You’re Online

A few months ago, Instagram launched a feature that lets users see when accounts they follow or communicate with over direct messages are online. That might be handy if you want to know if it’s a good time to send a friend your favorite new meme, but seeing other users’ online status requires that you make yours public too.

If that doesn’t seem like a worthwhile trade, you can switch the feature off.

On the app: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Click the gear icon in the top left > Privacy and Security > Uncheck the box for "Activity Status."

Limit the Ways Instagram Uses Your Account to Build Its Network

You may have noticed that when you follow a new account, Instagram recommends you check out a few similar users. The same thing happens in reverse—Instagram will recommend your account to other people.

That's useful if you want to attract as many followers as possible, but you can also chose to make yourself harder to find. You'll need to use a browser, not the app, to access the appropriate setting.

On a phone browser: Click the person-shaped icon in the bottom right corner > Edit Profile > Uncheck the box for “Similar Account Suggestions.”

Protecting Your Online Privacy

It doesn't matter if you're on your phone or your laptop, your personal information can leave a digital trail of where you go online. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports' expert Thomas Germain explains to host Jack Rico what to do to protect your online privacy.