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A man uses his Apple iPhone while sitting on the side of a fountain along 6th Avenue in New York
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
What will it say?
WORD SALAD

This is what Instagram thinks it knows about you

Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

From our Obsession

Big Tech

Looking at Big Tech as the next Big Oil.

Instagram ads are known for their accuracy—sometimes eerily so. The moisturizer you talked about with your friend last night, or the movie you mentioned seeing to your dad, is likely to end up there, prompting many a paranoid concern that Instagram is literally eavesdropping on you.

Your phone probably isn’t listening to your IRL conversations. But Instagram does know a whole lot about you, mainly from your scrolling on the app, browsing the internet, and from its tracking your physical location and other data points. You can even see—as you an with Facebook–what all these data points have led Instagram to believe you’re interested in. Twitter users have even made up a game about it, hashtagged #InstagramAds.

The results, at first glance, can be very weird. My own Instagram interests appear to number at least 800. Many were very predictable (various dog breeds, skiing locations, and yes, the inimitable MTV show Siesta Key); others understandable if puzzling (I’m a journalist who has reported on many topics, so “List of United States cities by population” is a plausible Google search); others downright chilling (a store I visited maybe once, many years ago, in a foreign country, a music festival I used to attend long before Instagram existed).

But plenty of entries made no sense: bands I’ve never listened to, shows I’ve never watched, a multitude of Formula One car-racing queries. “Boston Bruins.” “South Asian wedding photography.” “Quantum mysticism.” “Chihuahua (state)?”

Here’s how to check your Instagram interests on an iPhone (find the Android version below):

  • Go to “Settings,” then “Privacy and Security.”
  • Then “Access Data.”
  • Then, go to “Ads,” at the bottom, where you will see “Ads Interests.”

After that, enjoy the ride:

And here’s how to do it on an Android:

  • Go to “Settings,” where you pick “Security.”
  • Then to “Access Data.”
  • And finally, in “Account Data,”  you’ll get to “Ads Interests.”
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