How to Ditch Instagram

If Instagram's change of policy allowing it to sell photos has turned you off the sharing service, then you'll be pleased to hear that there are tools to help you extract your digital life before shutting down your account. The terms of service tweaks which give Instagram license to sell rights to user images to advertisers and others has many looking for an escape route: read on for the free tools you'll need.

Instagram itself recommends one tool, Instaport, which allows users to download either all or a subset of their photos. Currently that's as a ZIP file, though Instaport says RSS options and Flickr imports are in the pipeline too. It's also possible to download based on tags (up to a maximum of 500 shots) and download those photos shared by friends that you've favorited.

OpenPhoto takes a slightly different approach, and is a far more flexible tool than Instaport. It allows users to extract their Instagram shots – as well as those from other sites – and upload them to a personal gallery on Amazon S3, in Dropbox, or on your own computer. Mac users wary of web services can turn to InstaBackup, a free app that runs on OS X and saves a local copy of all images onto your computer.

Finally, Copygram is more about getting real prints of Instagram shots, but also includes a back-up option that allows you to create a ZIP download of all your content on the service. It's possible to save all the shots you've ever taken, or the most recent (from 10 to 10,000).

Once you've actually pulled your photos, you'll then need to delete your account using Instagram's tool. Head over to the account deletion page - log in, if you're not logged in already – and follow the steps there to wipe your digital presence from their servers. Be warned, though, not only can Instagram not restore your data should you have a change of mind, you also won't be able to re-activate your old username:

"When you delete your account, your photos, comments, likes, and friendships (everything) will be removed permanently and will not be recoverable. We cannot reactivate accounts. Additionally, you will not be able to sign up with the same username again" Instagram

Most of the Instagram data-extraction tools are getting hammered amidst the rush of people hoping to leave the service, so it's worth noting that the new terms of service don't actually come into effect until mid-January 2013. There's still plenty of time to close down your account before then, so if you're struggling to do it now, you could always add a reminder in your diary to check back when things should have quieted down in a few days time.

Of course, rather than ditching Instagram altogether, another approach is to recognize that a little flexibility is the price you pay for a free service. Instagram – and new owners Facebook – are arguably unlikely to make a fortune licensing out those heavily-filtered Starbucks mugs you've got into the habit of snapping; is the risk of having one of your shots used worth being able to take advantage of all Instagram's other features without a monthly subscription?