Instagram changes spark anger, as company has to clarify position

Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO at LeWeb 2012 in Paris.Nothing sparks backlash against a social media service quite like a Terms Of Service (TOS) change. Users who have already willingly given up their privacy to sign up to the services in the first place, suddenly get annoyed when companies push a little bit harder.

The latest row has engulfed Instagram. They announced a TOS change that gave them extensive rights of photos taken with the service, and the metadata linked to those services. Many users were angry, believing that it meant their carefully filtered food photos could sold to advertisers. Ultimately this backlash came back to hit Facebook too. The company is no strangers to privacy rows, and became Instagram’s parent in a $1 billion deal earlier this year.

The new Privacy Policy read:

“We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organisations that help us provide the service to you… (and) third-party advertising partners.”

Additionally they said in the Terms of Use:

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,”

It all lead to some very unhappy users, and the threats of quitting the service. People believed that the changes were not made to accommodate working with Facebook, but instead to allow Instagram to sell pictures they had created in the service, because what advertisers really want is iPhone photos…

Nevertheless,  founder Kevin Systrom felt sufficiently embattled to today post a blog entitled “Thank you, and we’re listening.” In it he says:

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.

He also tries to lay to rest many other concerns of users.

Over on The Verge, recovering lawyer Nilay Patel has dug into what the Terms of Service really mean. He says that while “Instagram has always had an expansive license to use and copy your photos,” and could have previously sold them to advertisers. In fact, Patel believes that “the new terms actually make things clearer and — importantly — more limited.” 

Ultimately, if you don’t what these profit making companies to user your data in some way, don’t use the service.

The row comes hot on the heels of Instagram blocking Twitter from displaying photos correctly by disabling its Twitter card integration leaving a lot of unhappy users.

Instagram made the move as it wants to build its own web presence and wants users to view pictures they have taken there rather than on Twitter.

Twitter had already been reported to be working on photo filters of its own for some time and duly announced it was launching these filters to rival Instagram a few days later.