How to use anonymous questions on Instagram

You can do lots of fun things on Instagram to pass the time. One of those things is letting your IG followers send you anonymous questions and messages via an anonymous messaging app. It’s an interesting way to see how people feel about you (and other topics) when they don’t have to risk being embarrassed by their own opinions or questions.

One of the most popular ways to host anonymous questions on Instagram is via an app called NGL. In this guide, we’ll go over what NGL does and how to use it for anonymous questions on Instagram.

What is NGL?

NGL is an anonymous messaging app for Instagram that allows its users to request anonymous questions and messages from their followers. The name “NGL” means “not gonna lie” (a common phrase used on social media) and it refers to the fact that the app tries to encourage honesty via anonymity.

Here’s how the app works: You post an Instagram Story that contains an NGL messaging link. Your followers view the Story and use the link to submit a question or message anonymously to you. Once your followers submit their messages, NGL sends you a push notification to alert you. You can view the messages you’ve received in the NGL app. You can also reply to these messages, but it’s done publicly via another Instagram Story.

It’s not hard to imagine how anonymous messaging apps like NGL can go horribly wrong. People can abuse such apps to send bullying or abusive messages anonymously. However, NGL has said that their app uses “world class AI content moderation” to “filter out harmful language and bullying.” And it does offer a way to report any abusive messages that still make it to your NGL inbox.

In the following sections, we’ll show you how to use NGL for anonymous questions on Instagram and how to report abusive messages in NGL.

How to post anonymous questions on Instagram using the NGL app

If you want to receive anonymous messages on Instagram, you can do so with the NGL app. It’s a very popular option for handling anonymous questions on Instagram, and it’s easy to use. Here’s how to set up and use NGL:

Step 1: Download the NGL app. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices.

Once downloaded, open NGL on your device.

Step 2: Select the Get questions! button. Then, enter your Instagram handle when prompted. Select Done!


Step 3: NGL will automatically generate an anonymous messages link that features your Instagram handle. This is the link your followers will use to send you anonymous questions and messages. On the Play screen, select Copy link. Then select the Share! button.

The Play screen on the NGL app which features the copy link and share buttons.


Step 4: You’ll then be taken through a quick tutorial on how to add your messages link to your Instagram Story. Review the tutorial and keep selecting the Next step button until you see the Share on Instagram button. Select this button.

The NGL Share on Instagram button.


Step 5: You’ll then be taken to Instagram, where NGL has pre-made a Story for you that announces your request for anonymous messages. On this screen, select the Sticker icon in the top right. Then select the blue and white Link sticker.

The edit screen for an Instagram Story pre-made by NGL.


Step 6: On the next screen, under URL, go ahead and paste the NGL messaging link you copied earlier. Then tap Done.

Select Your story to post your NGL link to your Story. Your followers will then view your Story and select its NGL link to send you an anonymous message.

How to respond to anonymous questions on Instagram using NGL

Once your followers start sending you anonymous questions and messages via your NGL link, NGL will start sending you push notifications alerting you to your messages. Tap on these notifications to open the NGL app so you can view your messages.

Here’s how to respond to your messages:

Step 1: In the NGL app, on the Inbox screen, if you have messages, you should see brightly colored envelope icons with hearts on them. Select one of these icons to view its message.

NGL inbox screen with messages.


Step 2: On the message’s screen, you’ll see the anonymous message that was sent and two options: Who sent this and Reply.

If you want to see hints that will help you figure out who sent the message, select Who sent this. This is a premium feature that requires a weekly paid subscription of $5.99.

If you want to reply, which is free to do, select Reply.

NGL message screen with Reply option.


Step 3: You’ll then be taken to Instagram, where NGL has already pre-made an Instagram Story that includes the question someone asked you.

In that Story, type in your response to the question. Select Your story to post your response to your Instagram Story so that everyone can see your answer.

How to report abusive messages on the NGL app

As you can imagine, anonymous messaging apps have the potential to be a breeding ground for abusive messages. And while NGL says they use AI content moderation to filter out such messages, you may still find yourself in a situation in which someone bullies you via your own NGL anonymous messaging link. If this happens, it’s important to know how to report harassment on NGL:

Open the offending message and select the Report icon in the top left of your screen. This icon looks like a triangle with an exclamation mark in the middle. Then select Report.

According to NGL, doing so also means that the message will be deleted and that the sender will be blocked from messaging you again in the future.

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Anonymous bulletin board app Yik Yak is revealing its users’ exact locations

Yik Yak, an app that acts as a local anonymous message board, makes it possible to find users’ precise locations and unique IDs, Motherboard reports. A researcher who analyzed Yik Yak data was able to access precise GPS coordinates of where posts and comments came from, accurate within 10 to 15 feet, and says he brought his findings to the company in April.

First launched in 2013, Yik Yak was popular on college campuses, where it was often used to gossip, post updates, and cyberbully other students. After waning relevance and failed attempts at content moderation, the app shut down in 2017, only to rise from the dead last year. In November, the company said it had passed 2 million users.

Motherboard spoke with David Teather, a computer science student based in Madison, Wisconsin, who raised the security concerns to Yik Yak and went on to publish his findings in a blog post. The app shows posts from nearby users but displays only approximate location, such as “around 1 mile away,” up to five miles, to give users a sense of where in their nearby community updates are coming from.

Though Yik Yak promises anonymity, Teather points out that combining GPS coordinates and user IDs could de-anonymize users and find out where people live since many are likely to be using it from home and the data is accurate to within 10 to 15 feet. That combination of information could be used to stalk or watch a particular person, and Teather mentions that the risk could be higher for people living in rural areas where homes are more than 10 to 15 feet apart because a GPS location could narrow a user down to one address.

As Motherboard reports, the data is accessible to researchers like Teather, who know how to use tools and write code to extract information — but the risk was real enough to prompt Teather to bring it to Yik Yak’s attention.

“Since user ids are persistent it’s possible to figure out a user’s daily routine of when and where they post YikYaks from, this can be used to find out the daily routine of a particular YikYak user,” Teather writes. He listed other ways the data could be abused, like finding out where someone lives, monitoring users, or breaking into someone’s home when they’re not there.

Yik Yak did not respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

According to Motherboard, the latest version of the app released by Yik Yak no longer exposes precise location and user IDs, but Teather says he can still retrieve that information using previous versions of the app.

“If YikYak did take this more seriously they would restrict these fields from being returned and break older versions and force users to upgrade to a newer version of the app,” he wrote in the blog post.

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Microsoft researchers tap AI for anonymous data sharing for health care providers

The use of images to build diagnostic models of diseases has become an active research topic in the AI community. But capturing the patterns in a condition and an image requires exposing a model to a rich variety of medical cases. It’s well-known that images from a source can be biased by demographics, equipment, and means of acquisition, which means training a model on such images would cause it to perform poorly for other populations.

In search of a solution, researchers at Microsoft and the University of British Columbia developed a framework called Federated Learning with a Centralized Adversary (FELICIA). It extends a family of a type of model called a generative adversarial network (GAN) to a federated learning environment using a “centralized adversary.” The team says FELICIA could enable stakeholders like medical centers to collaborate with each other and improve models in a privacy-preserving, distributed data-sharing way.

GANs are two-part AI models consisting of a generator that creates samples and a discriminator that attempts to differentiate between the generated samples and real-world samples. As for federated learning, it entails training algorithms across decentralized devices holding data samples without exchanging those samples. Local algorithms are trained on local data samples and the weights, or learnable parameters of the algorithms, are exchanged between the algorithms at some frequency to generate a global model.

With FELICIA, the researchers propose duplicating the discriminator and generator architectures of a “base GAN” to other component generator-discriminator pairs. A privacy discriminator is selected to be nearly identical in design to the other discriminators, and most of the optimization effort is dedicated to training the base GAN on the whole training data to generate realistic — but synthetic — medical image scans.

In experiments, the researchers simulated two hospitals with different populations, considering a “very restrictive” regulation preventing sharing images, as well as models have that had access to images. The team used a dataset of handwritten digits (MNIST) to see whether FELICIA could help generate high-quality synthetic data even when both data owners have biased coverage. They also sourced a more complex dataset (CIFAR10) to show how the utility could be significantly improved when a certain type of image was underrepresented in the data. And they tested FELICIA in a federated learning setting with medical imagery using a popular skin lesion image dataset.

According to the researchers, the results of the experiments show that FELICIA has potentially wide application in health care research settings. For example, it could be used to augment an image dataset to improve diagnostics, like the classification of cancer pathology images. “The data from one research center is often biased toward the dominating population of the available data for training. FELICIA could help mitigate bias by allowing sites from all over the world to create a synthetic dataset based on a more general population,” the researchers wrote in a paper describing their work.

In the future, the researchers plan to implement FELECIA with a GAN that can generate “highly complex” medical images, such as CT scans, X-rays, and histopathology slides in real-world federated learning settings with “non-local” data owners.


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How to Stay Anonymous Online

For the average computer user, surfing the web usually doesn’t come with a lot of invisibility. If it’s not an advertising agency trying to target you, it could be a nefarious criminal looking to steal your passwords. While it’s significantly harder than it once was, it is possible to stay anonymous online. 

We’ve found five different ways for you to help protect your identity and sensitive information while you surf the web.

Level 1: Browse in private whenever possible

Browsing in private mode is the simplest thing you can do to make some of your general internet usage a bit more anonymous.

Here’s how it works: You leave cookies every time you visit a website. These cookies are stored on your computer and hold a modest amount of data based on what websites you’ve visited, allowing other web pages to deliver an experience tailored to you. That could be Facebook showing you an ad for that new MacBook you searched for on Google, or YouTube seeing that you’ve been looking up videos about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 9 phone. These cookies can be used to create a unique fingerprint based on the data that’s been collected.

Just browse in private mode to avoid all that. All modern browsers have a private browsing feature, including on mobile. As this mode warns, internet service providers (ISPs) and others may still be able to track all your browsing activity, but it does help keep you more private from the websites themselves and from anyone looking at your history on the local machine.

Level 2: Avoid Google (or Bing or Yahoo)

Google, Bing, and Yahoo might be the three most popular search engines, but the trio also collects the most data about you in order to serve relevant ads and personalize services. Especially when logged in with your account, these search engines can collect your name, email address, birthday, gender, and phone number. Asides from that, Google and Bing can also collect important data such as device location, device information, IP address, and cookie data.

To avoid being tracked when searching on the web, we recommend you use a service like DuckDuckGo. This an independent search engine which doesn’t give you personalized search results. Everyone who searches sees the same results, and anything you search for won’t be collected or stored. The search engine also claims it has nothing to sell to advertisers, which means you won’t ever be subject to targeted ads seen when using Google and other websites.

If you really can’t give up Google for various reasons, you can customize so that you are targeted less. Log into your Google account and choose Privacy & Personalization, then choose Ad personalization from the next screen. Where it says Ad personalization ON, turn the toggle to off. You can also go through all the brands that are tracking you via your Google Account activity, and turn them off one by one if you want to selectively block tracking.

Level 3: Hide your IP address and location

Tor Browser

The next important thing you can do to stay anonymous is to hide your IP address, which is the easiest way to trace online activity back to you. If someone knows your IP address, they can easily determine the geographic location of the server that hosts that address and get a rough idea of where you’re located. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to obscure your IP address and hide your location.

First, you can use a virtual private network (VPN). For most intents and purposes, a VPN obscures your IP address and a proxy does the same – and in some cases even better. A VPN is a private, encrypted network that “tunnels” through a public network (usually the internet) to connect remote sites or users together. Today’s VPNs do far more than just encrypt your data, however. You can choose which VPN server that you want to connect with anywhere in the world, making it appear that your point of origin is anywhere you want it to be. The best VPNs also refuse to track your activity themselves (some do keep logs) and have extra features like kill switches that will instantly cut your connection if it looks like something is going wrong with encryption.

However, you can also use TOR. Short for The Onion Router, TOR is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Browsing with TOR is a lot like simultaneously using hundreds of different proxies that are randomized periodically.

Level 4: Use anonymous email and communication

Using proxies, VPNs, and TOR will obscure your IP address from prying eyes, but sending emails presents a different anonymity challenge. Let’s say you want to send somebody an email, but you don’t want them to know your email address. Generally speaking, there are two ways to go about this.

The first is to use an alias. An alias is essentially a forwarding address. When you send mail through an alias, the recipient will only see your forwarding address, and not your real email. Since all mail is forwarded to your regular inbox, this method will keep your real email address secret, but it will not, however, keep you from being spammed like crazy.

Secondly, you can use a disposable email account. This can be done in two ways: Either you can just create a new email account with a fake name and use it for the duration of your needs, or you can use a disposable email service. These services work by creating a temporary forwarding address that is deleted after a certain amount of time, so they’re great for signing up for stuff on sites you don’t trust and keeping your inbox from being flooded with spam.

Also, using a VPN and communicating through an anonymous email address will keep your identity hidden, but it still leaves open the possibility of your emails being intercepted through a middleman. To avoid this, you can encrypt your emails before you send them using HTTPS in your web-based email client, which adds SSL/TLS encryption to all your communications. For webchats, you also can consider using TOR chat or Crytopchat, which are encrypted chat services that are hard to break.

Level 5: Leave no trace on a computer with TAILS

As incredible as it may seem, you don’t have to be a magician to be able to use the internet on any computer without leaving any evidence of your usage behind. A Linux OS called TAILS offers you the tools that achieve this kind of online privacy. The system fits on a small storage device, such as a USB flash drive, that you can take anywhere and plug into any computer.

TAILS loads up TOR the instant you plug the device in and opens up your operating system home screen. Then, you just use the internet as usual. Because everything is booted right from the flash drive, you won’t make any traceable mark on the computer you’re using. The TOR encryption also ensures that your online activity, including files, emails, and instant messages, remains completely untraceable. Everything you’ve ever done online on any computer fits into this small device that only you can access.

You can download TAILS directly from its organization at any time. TAILS makes frequent updates to stay current and to continue to improve its security so that it guarantees no traces. You can count on this system to provide total privacy, but you’ll have to limit yourself somewhat to be able to fit everything you need in its limited storage.


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