Update : In its latest blog post, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom has moved to allay fears over Instagram’s policy changes. In it, Systrom acknowledges that the language used in the terms allowed for easy misinterpretation, and offered his apologies, while also making it clear that “it is not (the company’s) intention to sell (users’) photos”, and that the company has “no plans” for making users’ photos part of advertisements. What the company actually meant, in terms of advertising at least, is to have both users and brands promote their photos “to increase engagement and build a more meaningful following”. Therefore, we may be seeing ads that resemble Facebook’s promoted posts, instead of advertising banners that “would hurt the Instagram user experience”. Finally, Systrom has announced that the Legalese language used in the current new Terms of Service will be amended in light of the feedback it has been getting. However, the other aspects that raised users’ concern, such as the revised terms for underaged users, have not been addressed – although it must be said that that part has more to do with our side of the court than on theirs.
Popular photo sharing social network Instagram has today changed its Terms of Service in line with its integration with parent company Facebook. In a typically lengthy ToS post on its website, the company that single-handedly made filtered photos cool has made some rather unpopular changes to its policy that is sure to raise some serious privacy concerns for its users. Specifically, the company has noted that as of January 16, 2013, the company has the right to use images and other user-submitted data and also sell it for advertising purposes. In essence, any photo or information that is uploaded onto Instagram will be the under the sole right of Facebook, who can then choose to sell it to advertisers for better targeted advertising…legally. Besides that, while Instagram will not claim ownership of any content that users post on their domain, users “(thereby) grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service“. That basically means users automatically give permission to the company to sell anything they post onto Instagram to third parties, simply by posting it on Instagram. Also, the tweaked ToS also states that users will “acknowledge that (the company) may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”
Hence, some images that appear on users’ news feed may actually be advertisements tailored to appear on your news feed based on your browsing history on Instagram – which is what targeted advertising is all about. In addition, a third party business may pay Instagram (a.k.a. Facebook) “to display (a user’s) 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 (the user).” Therefore, Facebook can and will be making money out of photos that users have taken, without having to notify them that their photos and information are being sold to the highest bidder. To put this in perspective, let’s say there is user A from town X who loves browsing through photos of pasta on Instagram. Tracking cookies containing user A’s browsing data is then collected by Instagram. User B snaps a lovely plate of spaghetti aglio olio taken from Italian Restaurant A, also located in town X. Italian Restaurant A pays Instagram for user B’s photo and ad space disguised as a user-submitted post on Instagram to promote their establishment…which then appears on the news feeds of all users who love pasta living in town X and its thereabouts based on their tracking cookies.