Instagram’s New Terms of Service: Should You Be Worried?

eHow Tech Blog

Did you notice that, thanks to Instagram, the Internet broke this week? People – and the media in particular – have been up in arms since Facebook-owned Instagram updated its terms of service. In essence, the social network appeared to say that it had the right to take any photo uploaded by anyone and allow “a business or other entity [to] pay us directly to display your username, likeness, photos (along with associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Most folks took that statement to mean Instagram had the right to take any photo you’ve uploaded and allow an advertising partner to use it in an ad.

If you and your friends get your photo taken while drinking Coca Colas, for example, and Coke loves that picture, it might want to use that in an ad on the social network. The community was outraged, and large firms such as National Geographic decided to stop using the service entirely.

Then, in a bizarre move, Instagram said that’s not actually the case. That it won’t really sell your photos to advertisers.

“Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos,” the company said in a statement. “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.” That’s odd, because the unchanged ToS seems to suggest otherwise.

“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement,” the company continued. “We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”

That’s where I got really confused. Did Instagram just backpedal on its own ToS hours after it said the exact opposite? Yes. And the media, in general, backed off and decided everything was OK. It was a brilliant PR move on Instagram’s end, because I don’t see how anything has changed – the company hasn’t yet even released a new terms of service.

Should you be worried? Perhaps not worried, but I would certainly be skeptical. I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach to how Facebook decides to monetize Instagram. Clearly it had intentions to turn your photos into advertisements, but it back off on that claim once the community reacted so strongly.

If you’re worried that your photos might be used for advertisements, consider taking them down or halting any uploads for now. Just know that there’s something fishy going on, and it’s not clear what the end result will be just yet.

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