How To View a Private Instagram Account
As social media has become more and more important in our daily lives, the creators of the platforms have come to realize the crucial nature of security in preserving the users’ trust that the system won’t sell them out – or at least, not sell them out too much. Instagram, one of the most popular of the platforms, created a full set of policy protections in their software to keep information away from unwanted visitors. Whether you’re trying to hide your photo collections from your exes, future employers, or any other prying eyes you wish to hide from, it’s wise to keep the majority of your social network accounts private—and that includes your Instagram page. With a protected profile, your Instagram page won’t be viewable by the public, and you’ll have to approve followers one at a time, helping you manage who can and can’t view your content. While Instagram is a fairly social platform that encourages public sharing, it isn’t quite as public of a network as something like Twitter, which largely encourages public posts and interaction. Unless you’re a celebrity—or perhaps an up-and-coming YouTuber, there’s no reason not to lock down your Instagram account if you’re worried about safety or privacy.
But what if you want to view a private Instagram account? Or you want to ensure no one is viewing your private account without your knowledge? There aren’t easy answers to either of those questions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be solved with a bit of hard work and effort. Let’s view how to make your Instagram profile private, and how to view private accounts secretly—plus, how to make sure no one’s viewing your own account info.
How to Make Your Instagram Account Private
We’ve all been told over and over: make sure your social accounts are locked down and private, or at the very least, clean and secure of any compromising information and images. From getting a job to making sure your current employer doesn’t see something they won’t like, it’s important to ensure that your account is either private or safe. But if you’re new to Instagram—or it’s been awhile since you created your account—you might be unsure on how to change the privacy settings on your account to protect your information. Let’s take a look. We’ll be using the iOS version of the app in our screenshots below, but the Android version is near-identical to the Apple version of the app.
Start by opening the app, either from your home screen (iOS) or your app drawer (Android). The app will open up on the homepage for Instagram, showing a collection of posts and shares from your followed friends. Along the bottom of the app, you’ll find five icons for adding photos, viewing posts, and more. Tap on the profile icon on the bottom of the tab. On iOS, this shows your profile picture taken from Instagram. On Android, this shows a basic profile icon, a silhouette of a person. This will load your own profile, along with a few additional options.
From this display, you’ll see a few icons along the top of your screen. On iOS, look for the gear icon in the top right corner, which will load into your settings automatically. Android’s design is a little more different, with a triple-dotted menu button in the top-right corner of the display. Unlike other Android apps, this will also load directly into Instagram’s options menu instead of loading a smaller settings list.
Once you’re inside of Instagram’s settings menu, you’ll see a long list of options. You can add your Facebook friends and your contacts, invite Facebook friends not yet on Instagram, and view your account settings. It’s here where you’ll find options for two-factor authentication, the ability to hide your Instagram Story, and block users. But above all, the most important option here is “Private Account,” which you’ll find at the bottom of the account settings options on this page, before the traditional settings menu begins. Instagram warns below this switch that only people you approve can see your photos and videos, while mentioning that your existing followers won’t be affected by the switch. If you’re trying to get rid of a specific user that already follows you, you’ll have to block them.
When you’re ready to make your account private, all you have to do is flip the switch on this option. Instagram will warn you about approving followers and your existing followers being unaffected by the change. Confirm your selection, and that’s it—your account is now private. If at any time you want to make your account public again, simply follow the steps above and flip the switch for private accounts off again. You’ll receive another confirmation message, and that’ll be that. You can do this as many times as you’d like, without any sort of repercussions—just remember that any posts you shared while your account was private will become public as soon as you flip that switch off.
How to View a Private Instagram Account
The Legitimate Way
If you wish to view a private Instagram account, the easiest—and most legitimate—way is to request to follow that person. Typically, even a person with a protected profile will approve people they know, so if this is someone you’re familiar or acquainted with, you shouldn’t have any problems getting that person to approve your request. Once your request has been approved, you’ll be able to see that person’s profile and view any photos they’ve uploaded to Instagram.
Obviously, this is the most straightforward way to access and view a person’s private Instagram account, no matter who they are. Unfortunately, though, this does depend heavily on you as an Instagram user having a preexisting relationship with the person you’re trying to add on Instagram. Therefore, if you’re trying to add someone you don’t know, like a celebrity or a friend of a friend, the easiest way to reach out to them is through a private message on Instagram. Sending the user a direct message, or DM, will let them know a bit about who’s requesting to follow the user. The best way to do this is to let the requested user know who you are, a bit about yourself, and why you want to follow them on Instagram. Saying as much as “I’m a high school friend of your boyfriend” or “We met at your cousin’s birthday party” can be enough to create a contact between you and the party you’re trying to reach out to, especially if they remember you.
Again, a lot of this relies on having an already-existing connection with the person. If that isn’t there, then you’ll have to rely on your own social skills to talk to the user you’re looking to follow. Many Instagram users will welcome new friends, especially since they can block or remove you if things get rough. Just remember to keep an eye on what you post and what that person posts. If you don’t know them and you interact with them too often after they’ve approved your request, you might be risking a removal or blocking.
Try Searching Their Username and Real Name
This is a quick tip, and ultimately, it might not get you far in your quest to find out some information on your Insta-crush or your old high school friends, but it’s worth a shot regardless. Log into Instagram and look for the target you wish to research online. When you find their account, no doubt locked behind a privacy wall, you’ll be able to see the username of your target. Highlight that name and copy it to your device’s clipboard, because we’re going to be using that name in a moment.
Now, open up Google Images or the image-based search engine of your choice and paste the name of your targeted person into the search box. What we’ll be doing here is simple: somewhere on the web, there’s a good chance that the person you’re looking for has left a trail of footprints along the web before activating their privacy protection on Instagram. Often, the photos posted on Instagram have actually been shared elsewhere, making it easy to find your target’s photos by using their Instagram ID against them. If they’ve previously had different photo accounts on Flickr or other similar photo sharing sites, you may retrieve some of that information in your search. Same goes for if the person’s Facebook is largely unprotected.
You can follow a similar strategy using the real names of non-celebrities. All in all, this may not end up gaining you access to a full Instagram account, but if you’re looking for some additional photos of a specific person on Instagram, using their login ID to find photos of them posted on other sites is an easy way to bypass Instagram’s own privacy protection—even if it’s only a temporary fix.
Using Instagram Viewer Sites
Searching Google for methods to view private Instagram profiles will bring up endless results of solutions and guides—including this one!—but it will also refer you to a number of websites with suspicious names that advertise the ability to view private profiles in just a few easy steps. These sites have names like “WatchInsta,” “Instaspy,” and “Private Instaviewer,” and they all seem to promise the same general idea: use their website to gain access to Instagram accounts marked as private without any extra steps, payments, or requirements. Some of them even promise complete anonymity, or have chatrooms where you can discuss the app with other users.
Unfortunately, after testing a few of the results from the first page or two of search results through Google, we absolutely do not recommend using these sites. They come from shady backgrounds at best, typically obscuring the name of the company behind the site, and despite the promise of “free” results, often ask to fill out a survey or sweepstakes that requires a credit card or other form of payment to complete. Some of the sites also seem connected to each other, displaying one name but then showing another site’s name when the survey request loads. We simply can’t suggest users use any of these sites when their backgrounds are unclear and their origin is hidden from users on the site. Basically, stay clear of these sites; they’re nothing but trouble for your account.
If you’ve tried adding the person on Instagram with a friendly message and still can’t gain access to their account, there’s still one option left, though it’s difficult to recommend that to users as well: fake accounts. Let’s take a look.
It is important to recognize that fake accounts are against Instagram’s terms of service. Extra legitimate (i.e., properly identified) accounts are not. How would Instagram find out that you were using actual fake accounts? Basically, because other visitors conspired to complain about users who they thought (rightly or wrongly) to be fake. In particular, Instagram takes claims of identity theft (using someone else’s real name and impersonating them on the service) to be a major violation and they will go after duplicators. In a bit, we’ll get to why that’s important, and how to get around it.
If you do choose to create a fake ID, here are some ways to get more accepted by a private Instagram account holder.
- Select a female profile picture for your fake account. This comes across as more friendly and safe. Choosing to use a female identity on Instagram makes the account feel less predatory than a male account, though it’s obvious that this can create problems on its own.
- Add real photos to your fake Instagram account. You could also make your fake Instagram ID a private account as well.
- If the private Instagram account you want to follow doesn’t approve your request to follow them, send a DM to that person. Explain that you’d like to follow them on Instagram and your reasons. You could theoretically do this in or out of character
The Less-than-Legitimate Way
There are actually several different methods of gaining access to a private Instagram profile, using techniques of social engineering and deception.
We do not whole-heartedly recommend these methods. They are definitely unethical under most circumstances, and quite possibly illegal under others and depending on your intent in using the methods. There are some subtleties, but in general if you are committing a fraud online in order to get something of value from someone, then that is a broadly similar criminal act to committing a fraud offline for the same reason; it’s a crime and of itself, so watch out – “but we didn’t successfully get what we came for” won’t make any difference if the authorities decide to make an example of you.
The Lazy Way
The laziest method of gaining access to a private profile that you have personally been declined for is to create a new Instagram profile with a new e-mail address and a fake name, and have that account submit a membership application to the privately held group. Instagram spammers use this technique constantly, churning out the output from realistic name generators for hours and assigning names to everyone in their fictitious empires. Every device (smartphone or tablet) can in fact have up to five separate terminals hooked up to it, so unless you’ve been creating fake accounts already, you should have plenty of slots left.
Once you have the new account (it will need it’s own unique e-mail address, but Google Mail makes that trivially easy) just submit a request to the private account you want to follow. You can send a DM first to break the ice and/or warn the owner of the private account that a new person is coming in. If the original reason you were denied access to the account was trivial or specific to you, then the signup should be approved if they don’t suspect that this is a patsy account of yours.
The lazy way is easy. It’s also not going to work very often; generally if an account has a private registration it’s for a good reason. What do we do then?
The Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse takes the same basic idea, but it goes to the trouble of creating a fake profile that looks “right” to the owner of the private Instagram account we want to follow. For example, say that a popular game streamer had a private Instagram account where she shared only the very elite secrets of the particular game. Obviously, if you or I try to gain access to this group with our Instagram account (username “GrandmaBakesCookies”) there may be some suspicion on the part of the private account owner. Instead, you want to create a fake account that nonetheless looks very real. For our gaming account, we would upload lots of skilled playthrough videos and Instagram posts bemoaning or praising certain events in the world of game design. And so on.
By investing a bit more time and energy into the fake, creating a line of posts and pictures, complete with comments section, we give a much stronger impression of being a real person who wasn’t a fraud.
A doppelganger is a creature of myth and folklore, a shapeshifter that can take on the form of anything that it touches. Our doppelganger doesn’t have quite that amount of magical power, but it does do something very effective. Think about this for a minute. What kind of Instagram accounts are a private account owner MOST likely to immediately accept and approve, without even thinking about it? The answer is, accounts that he or she has already approved but that then show up again in the approval queue. People unfollow and refollow all the time; seeing their friend John’s account come rolling back up asking to be let in again might be a bit vexing, but will be good-naturedly approved.
So how do we manage to get their friend John’s account? The answer is that we don’t – but we fake it. There are two big problems with creating a “duplicate” account. One, it’s one of the big crimes that Instagram actually bestirs itself to do something about. Two, we don’t know who the duplicate accounts are! Private accounts don’t show their followers list when you browse them – so there’s no way to know who follows them. Or is there?
Directly, no. Instagram keeps things too secure for that. But Instagram is not the only place that your private account person has a presence, is it? That Instagram private account almost certainly has a parallel life over on Facebook. It may be on Tik Tok too, and Pinterest and Etsy and…the list goes on. So here’s the plan: scout out the other social media platforms where your target account has a presence. Find the one with the sloppier security and more stuff online; almost nobody has tight privacy settings everywhere. Once you’ve found the weakest area of their defenses, look through their materials and find out who their big fans are. Who are the people liking every post and commenting on every thread? Get those names and usernames, because dollars to donuts, those are the people who are also following your target on Instagram.
Now create a profile or two for these doppelgangers. You won’t be able to use the same username – but you can use one that’s very close, using accent characters, substituting 0 for O and so on. You can even borrow some photographs from the other social media site to use as your avatar. Instead of Bill Oakeshot, you create Bill 0akeshot, with the same avatar picture. Odds are good that this is going to slide right past the private account owner. Note that this is a serious rules violation and you could lose your Instagram account access altogether. One way to prevent that is to take advantage of a loophole in the Instagram rules. It is forbidden to copy a person’s account and impersonate them – and the only person who can complain about this is the person themselves. In order to prove that they are the original user, they have to show proper state-issued ID. But in the many cases where someone doesn’t use their actual name for their user name – it becomes impossible for them to claim duplication, and you can copy with impunity. You can also avoid the issue altogether by changing your Instagram name (and changing out your avatar pictures) once you’ve been approved into the group. Bill 0akeshot disappears, and Larry_The_Canary takes his place, with nobody the wiser.
The doppelganger, done correctly, is almost certain to get you into the private account you need to access. Use it wisely.
The only legitimate way to view a private Instagram account profile is by requesting to follow that person from your actual account. Once the private Instagram user grants your request to follow them, you’ll have the ability to view, like, and comment on their Instagram posts. You could also private message the account holder to explain why you’d like to follow them. Or you can do both, making sure the user knows exactly who you are and why you want to view their profile.
If you’re looking for unethical—and possibly illegal—ways to view a private Instagram account, you can always go the route of creating a fake profile and trying to fool the user into following you. We highly, highly recommend users not doing this, as it’s a major breach of trust with the other user, and fake accounts can often easily be spotted when browsing content. Overall, reaching out to the user you want to follow is the best course of conduct. They’ll likely add you if you show a connection or a sense of friendliness—Instagram is, after all, a fairly positive community of photographers and users sharing their social experiences online.
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