Instagram to world: perhaps we should have been more clear. Thousands of people have already taken to Twitter and Web forums to express their displeasure over Instagram’s newly revamped Terms of Use, which includes provisions that make it seem as if the photo-sharing service can sell user photos to the highest bidder:
“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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata) on your behalf.”
Now Instagram is in full damage-control mode. “Yesterday we introduced a new version of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service that will take effect in thirty days,” Kevin Systrom, the company’s co-founder, wrote in that Dec. 19 blog posting. “Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean.” From there, Systrom delved into Instagram’s approach to advertising. “Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram,” he wrote. “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.” So even if your Instagram photos of last night’s bowling expedition aren’t sold to a beer conglomerate, you might still find yourself the target of “innovative” advertising. In addition, despite the length of his mea culpa, Systrom made no attempt to walk back the provision in the revised Terms of Use that lets Instagram post “sponsored content” without identifying it as such. But Systrom did tackle the question of whether user photos can end up incorporated into advertising:
“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like 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.”
Instagram isn’t claiming ownership rights over images, or who can see them. Systrom promised updates to the Terms of Use at some undefined point in the future. “One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now,” he concluded, “is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns.” But is the damage already done? Some high-profile Instagram users have already expressed concern over the policy changes. “@NatGeo is suspending new posts to Instagram,” National Geographic posted Dec. 18. “We are very concerned with the direction of the proposed new terms of service and if they remain as presented we may close our account.” Meanwhile, hundreds of regular users took to Twitter and Facebook, claiming they’d already shut down their accounts. If Instagram can’t calm their fears, it could see an even larger exodus in weeks ahead.   Image: Dustie/