How Does Instagram Generate Recommended Searches?

Instagram collects data from likes, comments, prior searches, and post locations to suggest accounts during searches, even after search history is cleared.

From ads that mirror recently visited websites to suggested searches that remember accounts you stalked weeks ago, Instagram’s data collection and use is unnerving. The social media platform takes note of your likes, follows, comments, hashtags, location, photo content, and more, all in the name of a better Instagram experience. Even scarier, the app remembers this information after you clear your in-app search history. Learn how Instagram really works.

Read More: College Students: A Prime Target for Hacking

Instagram’s Search Suggestions Algorithm
Instagram’s suggested search accounts are based on a number of criteria, the most important of these being your own search history. Unless your history has been cleared fairly recently, the three suggested accounts will typically be those you searched for by name, which came up as a result of your search and whose photos you viewed.

Search Suggestions After Your History Has Been Cleared
However, Instagram’s suggested search algorithm is not based on previous search history alone. Users who delete their Instagram search history will still receive suggestions when navigating the search feature.

Without access to your search data, the app relies instead on interaction between accounts and similarities in content. These suggestions will be based on Facebook friends if the accounts are linked, most recently liked photos or accounts that liked your photos, shared followers, and accounts that have commented on your photos or you on theirs. In addition, the social media platform also considers hashtags, post content, and location when creating suggestions.

How to Clear Instagram Search History
While users will never be able to completely foil Instagram’s search algorithm, users can delete search history to keep some of their activity within the app private.

To do so, open the app and tap the profile icon in the lower left-hand corner. Click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner and scroll through the “Options” menu to the bottom. Tap “Clear Search History,” the third-to-last option on the page, and confirm your decision by choosing “Yes, I’m sure” on the pop-up. To prevent specific accounts from showing up in your top searches, visit the top search page, press and hold on the account name and click Hide in the pop-up menu.