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Instagram’s ‘suicide note’: Company to sell users’ photos

Published time: December 18, 2012 10:55
Edited time: December 19, 2012 14:18
(AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

(AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

Imagine seeing the most private moment of your life displayed in an ad campaign without notification or financial compensation. When Instagram’s new Terms of Use policy kicks in on January 16, this could become a new marketing reality.

Instagram’s new policy allows the popular photo sharing app to use submitted photos, names and text for marketing purposes.

“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,” the new Terms of Use reads.

New York-based photographer Clayton Cubbit wrote on his account that the new policy is “Instagram's suicide note,” referring to an allegedly widespread desire among users to quit the popular app because of the proposed changes.

Image from instagram.com user@claytoncubitt
Image from instagram.com user@claytoncubitt

User ‘gkkd’ called it “too high price to pay” for the service, adding that if it “goes into effect I'm done with Instagram.”

(Screenshots from twitter.com)
(Screenshots from twitter.com)

Another addition to the new terms is a layer of protection for Instagram from any liability, such as class action lawsuits, for making private photos public. The new policy states that “we will not be liable for any use or disclosure of content” and “Instagram will not be liable for any use or disclosure of any content you provide.”

Author and software developer Reginald Braithwaite interpreted the new policy on his blog: “You are not our customers, you are the cattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder. Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk.”

A screenshot from http://raganwald.posterous.com
A screenshot from http://raganwald.posterous.com

Other changes include standard points like “no porn” and “you must be 13 to use Instagram.”

There is no way to opt-out of the new Terms of Service – the only option for dissenting users is to delete all of their Instagram photos and deactivate their accounts.

Photography site PopPhoto.com said that users are not happy with the changes. “The service itself is still a fun one, but that's a lot of red marks that have shown up over the past couple weeks. Many shooters – even the casual ones – probably aren't that excited to have a giant corporation out there selling their photos without being paid or even notified about it.”

The Anonymous hacktivist group has posted a call on Twitter for all subscribers to Instagram to boycott the application and delete their accounts. It says it’s the only way to protect users’ rights.

(Image from twitter.com)
(Image from twitter.com)

In the wake of global outrage over the new policy, Facebook said it would alter some of the wording in the service agreement.

The company also tried to “eliminate the confusion” by releasing a statement saying that Instagram will “remove the language that raised the question” about whether a user's photo could be used in an advertisement.

"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," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom 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."

The new Terms of Use is the first major policy shift since Facebook bought Instagram in August. Critics raised privacy concerns as soon as the acquisition plan was announced.

“Part of the concern is that it's Facebook,” ACLU of Northern California attorney Chris Conley told CNET News. “And their history of privacy and respecting user choices is mixed.”

Facebook has recently excluded its users from having any input in policy changes. The social network also faces a legal showdown in Europe over accusations of privacy violations. In the past, Facebook has made extensive changes to the default privacy settings, making more user data public over time.

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