Meta, possibly trying to convince people that it is a transparent company, has just equipped Instagram with a new feature that lets users know what it learns about them through other websites. Unfortunately, getting this information isn’t as easy as Meta would have you believe.
In addition to what you post and how you interact with the platform, Instagram’s parent company also collects data about you through other sites and organizations that use the company’s products and services. This means that if you buy something from a vendor that uses the Meta Pixel on their website, for example, Instagram will know about it.
With this new feature, you can see who’s sharing your information, delete data that’s already in Instagram’s hands, and prevent future sharing. This may sound like a lot of work, but we’ve tried it and made mistakes, so you don’t have to.
How to find out what other Instagram sites are sharing about you
You can learn all the hot gossip that other sites are telling the Meta about you in the Non-Meta Tech Activity menu. This option was once only available to Facebook users, but is now an integral part of the company’s Account Center, which includes Instagram.
[Related: How to make your social media posts truly private]
1. In the Instagram app, open your profile by tapping the silhouette of a person in the lower right corner of the screen. Go to hamburger menu (three lines) in the upper right corner, select Settings and privacyand then Account Center.
On the web, log into Instagram, click | More ▼ in the lower left corner of the screen and go to Settings. Click there Account Center.
2. From there, the options are the same whether you’re on your phone or computer. Go to Your information and permissions and then yes Your activity outside of meta-tech.
On the next screen, you’ll be able to learn a little more about the type of data Instagram receives from third parties when you interact with them. This data can be a number of things, such as when you’ve opened an app, signed in via Facebook or Instagram, added an item to your cart, purchased something, or even made a donation. Meta says this information does not include health or financial data, or other sensitive details such as date of birth or passwords.
3. Under What can you do title, go to Recent activity to see all sites sharing your information with Instagram. You may need to enter your Instagram password to continue. You will see a list of companies and you can click on each one to learn more details.
Here’s the tricky part, though: When you click on the number of interactions a company has shared with Meta, you won’t see a detailed report of the interactions the site has shared with Instagram. Instead, you’ll see more information and a button you can press Download activity details.
You’d think that by this they mean downloading only the details of your interactions with other apps and websites, but you’d be wrong. In fact, you will have to request a download of a file that contains all the information about your Instagram account, and you will still not find exactly what other sites have shared about you.
4. This leaves you with no choice but to cut off the data flow at the source. Back in Recent activity menu, you can click or tap Clear previous activity or Exclude a specific activity. The first will remove everything Instagram has about you from third parties, but it won’t prevent the same sites from continuing to share information in the future.
To do in-depth work, start with the selection Exclude a specific activity and selecting a site you want to trim. It’s not intuitive to start here since it’s the second option, but clearing activity will prevent you from disconnecting with third parties, as their names and the option to disconnect will disappear. This means you’ll have to wait until they reappear in the menu to block them once and for all.
5. The next screen will show you a list of websites that share data with Instagram. Select the ones you want to unlink by ticking the circle next to their name, then tap continued.
6. The next screen will show you more information about the disconnect between this third-party activity and your account, including the fact that it may log you out of this external website if you used your Instagram account to sign in. It also clarifies that you will still see ads from the site, albeit less personalized, and Meta will continue to receive information, but it just won’t be linked to you. A hit Confirm when you’re done and repeat the process with any sites you don’t want to share your data with.
[Related: How to go incognito on these 6 popular apps]
Contrary to Recent activity menu, you can also touch a company name and select Disconnect. This of course requires you to disconnect from the sites one by one, which is not as efficient as doing it by pressing Exclude a specific activity button.
Note that disconnecting from these sites doesn’t mean they won’t continue to share information with Instagram — it just means the data will be anonymized, so it won’t be tied to you specifically. This is something many companies do to protect user privacy, but it’s also worth knowing that there are studies that show data can never be truly anonymous, especially when certain data points like location are included
7. Now it’s time to delete what Instagram already has on you with a click or tap Clear previous activity. Continue by selecting your account and pressing clear. Confirm your selection again by selecting Clear previous activity.
As you can see, Instagram’s new way of managing third-party activity is frustrating. Navigating the new menu is incredibly frustrating as it’s mined with dark patterns, and even after a deep dive, we still don’t know what third-party websites have shared about us, and we couldn’t stop them from sharing more information in the future. Certainly not the best experience.