Instagram: We Won’t Sell Your Photos

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Posted 5 years ago

When Instagram published its Terms of Service updates yesterday, it could not have expected the sort of reaction that the new conditions would bring. Within minutes of the ToS going live, news spread across social media, blogs, and even mainstream news, that the changes now meant Instagram had the ability to do as they please with the photos uploaded by users, including the power to sell them to advertisers without permission or compensation.

Naturally, this didn’t go down well and led to an almost instant revolt across social media, with Twitter and Facebook users signaling their intention to close Instagram accounts with immediate effect.

With users fearing that photos of themselves, children, or friends could be used in Instagram or Facebook ads, the social photo-sharing app’s co-founder, Kevin Systrom, moved quickly to calm the storm, publishing a tweet that acknowledged the complaints.

Later in the day, Systrom also took to the Instagram blog to clarify the concerns with a post entitled “Thank you, and we’re listening.”

“To be clear,” the Instagram chief says in the post, “it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

In response to user concerns of photos showing up as part of advertisements, Systrom said: “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.”

The issue of ownership rights was also cleared up: “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.”

Kevin Systrom says that the proposed changes to the terms and conditions were done to give Instagram a little flexibility to experiment with different types of advertising in order to generate revenue without filling up timelines with ads. A thorough read of the ToS got this point across, but the language used was easily construed to mean something else, which in the end in the fault of Instagram. However, by admitting “legal documents are easy to misinterpret” and by acting quickly to address concerns, Instagram may well have gained respect from users, although, with Twitter and Flickr now offering Instagram-like features, the Facebook-owned service might have a hard time attracting back some of those users that deleted accounts.

For those of us that did not react hastily by ditching Instagram, normal service can now be resumed.

– Anthony Carter

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