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Instagram Responds to User Outrage Over New Terms

by Christina DesMarais on December 18, 2012

It was only a matter of time before there would be fallout from Facebook’s $1 billion purchase earlier this year of Instagram, a photo sharing service. And here it is.

On December 17, the popular photo sharing site posted an updated Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to take effect on January 16, 2013 and everybody went nuts. Why?

While Instagram said its updated policies help the company function more easily as part of Facebook so that both can share information with each other, most people were reading the legal jargon a little differently.

Check it out:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

It kind of sounds like they’re calling dibs on selling people's photos for use in ads, right?

Well, not so fast.

After users by the boatload were proclaiming they were jumping out of the Instagram ship, and news outlets from The New York Times to The Los Angeles Times chronicled all the drama, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom did some back-peddling in a blog post in which he says the company is listening to all the complaints and will change the wording in its updated Terms of Use.

He said that in order for Instagram to be a self-sustaining business, it needs to use methods such as advertising to bring money in the door. That makes sense, obviously.

…[W]e’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

A more likely scenario: A business shows the profile photos of people who follow its brand account so as to get more followers and increase engagement. I'm OK with that, considering that following a brand is a pretty public thing to do anyway.

He also said the company has no plans to use people’s photos in ads, and Instagram will remove the wording that caused folks to think it would do so.

“Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time,” he wrote.

He also clarified questions about ownership rights, which is a prickly issue for creative types.

“Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

As for privacy settings, he said nothing has changed regarding the control you have over who can see your images. “If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you.”

In spite of Systrom’s assurances, my guess is there are going to be privacy-loving Facebook dissenters who will be annoyed enough with its meddling with Instagram to want out. If you’re one such person, you can quit Instagram here.

As an alternative, you can always use Yahoo’s free Flickr web and mobile apps, which has photo filters just like Instagram and lets you share manipulated images on social networks and via email. Another option: Twitter. The microblogging site recently had a falling out with Instagram and now offers its own photo filters.

Want to get your photos off Instagram? Instaport lets you download all your photos into a .zip file you can save on your hard drive. Soon it will also let you transfer them to Facebook and Flickr, as well.

Personally, I’m still comfortable using Instagram. Then again, I'm also still on Facebook, in spite of all of its privacy shenanigans and over the years. I feel like using social networks privately is an oxymoron, but that's just me.



Cameras and Photography, News, Photo / Video Sharing, Computer Safety & Support, Blog, Facebook

Discussion loading


From Matt on December 19, 2012 :: 12:56 pm

Mark Zuckerberg agrees to a sweetheart deal for his “friends”,for an astounding amount of money, with a company that has no revenue just before facebook goes public and he would have to vett the purchase with a public board. Now that board has to figure out a way, in hindsight, to monetize that ridiculous purchase..get ready for a billion dollar write-down?



From Keith Roden on December 19, 2012 :: 2:59 pm

The issue for me is not the idea (that some have come up with) whereby they believe that their photographs will be sold without any compensation to them. No, my complaint at the “wording issue” of this new TOS is this part, “you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata)...”
I do not agree to Instagram using my username, likeness etc in association with a business arrangement they have made with a sponsor.
Why not just emulate the Privacy Policy of Facebook, whereby the user has the option to limit their own account’s visibility (Public, Friends of Friends, or just friends)?
Until Instagram can tell me that my account details will not be used without my permission, I will not be using Instagram. In fact, I deleted my account today.



From Josh Kirschner on December 20, 2012 :: 1:59 pm

Facebook will use information from your profile, as well as your actions, such as Likes, for sponsored stories and promoted posts. You cannot prevent this.

Information such as your profile picture and name are always “public”, you cannot limit their visibility. And Facebook may use them in the future in ways we don’t want.

Read more about Facebook promoted posts:

BTW, are you aware that all of the posts you are making in your own Facebook timeline are set to Public?



From Jay Meydad on December 19, 2012 :: 7:29 pm

Take a look at Pixplit for iPhone ( It also has the social network features like Instagram, filters, borders and more. But it is more than that. It let’s users create photos together in a single frame (social photo collages) and communicate with others using photos.

The app was featured on AllThingsD a few days ago. Liz Gannes posted about it and called it “A Photo App That’s Actually Social”.


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