The other day, Instagram the popular photo-sharing social network, announced changes to its privacy and terms of service that put its users in an uproar. One of the major updates that enraged users was Instagram’s ability to sell your photos without paying you…or better yet, didn’t even have to tell you that your photo was being used in an ad. Instagram wrote the following:
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.
So in other words, they can sell your photos to create ads and use your photos in the Instagram feed to create stories. As you can probably imagine, this update really angered parents who were fearful that their children’s photos could be used in advertisements without permission. Not to mention, all of the professional photographers on Instagram whose photos are their livelihood.
Even I have an Instagram account, and I have to admit, I was thinking about deactivating it. But let me step aside for a moment and think about this platform as what it most certainly is — a business. What did we expect? Did we think that Instagram was founded and sold for the pure intention of making the world a more photographic place? Sure, the average consumer would love to believe so, but that’s hardly the case. More often than not, if you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product. And just like any business, Instagram’s main objective is to make a profit. However, when your product is free to use, figuring out ways to earn money without disrupting the user experience is quite difficult — just ask Facebook.
It’s not hard to believe that shortly after all of this backlash, Instagram came back with new language around their TOS:
Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’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.
Although this statement puts some Instagram users at ease, it’s a little too late for many. A lot of users have already deleted their accounts and fled for higher grounds on other photo-sharing networks like Flickr. Personally, I think this will only be a temporary fix as it just seems to be the nature of the beast. I feel like the reality is that social networking companies are all gonna start treating privacy issues in a similar manner, at least in one way shape or form. I’d love to be proved wrong, though.
What are your thoughts? Do you have an Instagram account, and feel like Instagram was in the wrong? Please share your comments below!
On a lighter note, here’s a picture of our VP doing a sick dunk to boost your Instagram spirits.