In the early days of Instagram, the reason someone would take a private account was simple: they just wanted an approved audience, probably close friends and family, to see their posts. Although this remains true in many cases, other more nuanced motivations to become private have emerged.
In July, The Atlantic reported that an increasing number of meme accounts were blocking their accounts to increase their followers. (If you’ve ever been sent a meme by a friend via DM, only to find that you can’t see it because the creator is set to private, you know how frustrating this can be.) For others, spam to aliens or robots are behind the decision.
But if Google «sees a private Instagram account,» the results may sound alarming: several online sites promise to allow users to bypass the app’s security checks and look at accounts that haven’t accepted them as followers. PrivateInstaViewer.com, for example, claims to offer «unique software» that will provide access to private accounts. Others, such as the Instagram 2018 private profile viewer, say they have built a «device» that will do the job.
Here’s the catch: once you try to use one of these services, you’ll quickly realize that their free offers are priced high. After entering the username of the private profile you want to view, you will be asked to «verify the person» before you can view the photos. Instead of the standard «I’m not a robot» CAPTCHA message, sites ask survey questions, such as «what’s your favorite big game snack?» and «choose your favorite Hershey candies.»
Click on one of them and you need to provide not only your chocolate preference, but also sensitive personal information such as your name, address, phone number and email address. In other words, all the information you probably don’t want and shouldn’t want to reveal.
In turn, Instagram investigates these sites to ensure that they do not end up revealing private profiles after transmitting all this personal data. «We take Instagram privacy and security very seriously,» an Instagram spokesman said in response to a question. «Only accepted followers can see posts from private accounts.»
So, if you want to take a look at someone’s private account without them knowing, or want to see what a meme creator is sharing without following them, consider yourself lucky. You will need to tap the «continue» button and then hope for the best.