Facebook's Instagram keeps a copy of everything you've ever shared. It's easy to download an archive of that information, so I'm going to show you how.
There are two primary reasons you might want to do this: first, it's worth seeing what sort of private information is stored on Instagram's severs. Second, it's convenient if you want to take all of your data and move to another service.
Here's what I found
I downloaded my archive and discovered that Instagram has access to all my contacts phone contacts -- including their names, email addresses and full names -- even if they don't use Instagram. It also has a copy of:
- My profile information.
- Everything I've searched on Instagram.
- Everyone I follow.
- Every post I've ever liked.
- Direct messages I've sent to other users.
- Every video I've ever posted.
- Every photo I've ever posted.
- Every story I've ever shared (Stories are Instagram's Snapchat-like feature.)
The Instagram archive doesn't include any data about ads you've viewed or interacted with, or what sorts of ad topics it think you might be interested in. Facebook must have this data somewhere, but it isn't included in the file you download.
How to download your data
You can download your own archive and discover what Instagram still knows about you. Here's how:
- Navigate to Instagram.com and select your profile.
- Click the gear next to your name and select "Privacy and Security."
- Scroll down to "Data Download" and click "Request Download."
- Then enter the email you'd like to receive the download link too and verify the request by entering your Instagram password.
While Instagram says it can take up to 48 hours, I received my download link in under thirty minutes.
The data comes through as a zip file with folders for photos, stories, and videos. Anything that isn't a photo or video -- messages, profile, searches, and settings -- are saved in text format that you can open with notepad on a computer.
How to delete your Instagram data
If you don't want Instagram to have this data, you can delete it all. (Instagram confirms in its FAQ that it's actually deleted.) Doing so requires you to delete your entire account permanently, however. If you don't want to do that, you can temporarily disable your account, too.
- Visit Instagram's "delete your account page."
- Select a reason for why you want to delete your data.
- Click "Permanently delete my account."
That's it. Now you've learned how to download a copy of all of your Instagram data and, if you want, how to delete it.
This article was first published on CNBC