Instagram terms of service update

Cross posted at  Last night I went to upload a few photos from my phone of the holiday lights to Instagram.  I noticed there was a link about a new privacy policy and new terms of use.  They go into effect on January 16, 2013, so I figured I had plenty of time to read it.  Then today it made big news, on several news outlets.  I decided to log into my account to see what it’s all about.  What’s interesting is that I didn’t receive any notification on my full website account.

What instagram says to describe the highlights:

  • Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.
  • Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.
  • Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.

However, reading the news and the actual policy lead me to other conclusions.  The New York Times might have the best article.

The article focuses on five items. The first is similar to what Instagram highlights, its ability to share information about its users with Facebook, its parent company, as well as outside affiliates and advertisers.  This seems innocuous enough, except Facebook can use your photos to target advertisements to you.

The next is the most concerning, Instagram’s ability to sub-license and sell your photos to businesses, like a stock photo service.  These photos could be used in advertisements — without your knowledge.  And Instagram would be profiting from them.  CNET has more details on this one.

The third is a bit worrisome, too.  Especially when combined with the sharing of photoes.  Underage users are not exempt.  If someone under age signs it, they assume the parent has given permission, and can use the photos.  Which may run afoul of privacy laws.

Finally, ads may not be labeled as ads.  Which may run afoul of laws regulating advertising.

Want to opt out? Your only option is to delete your account.   But you might consider waiting.  If there is a big enough public outcry, the terms may change before January 16.  It remains to be seen.  And you may also be willing to take your chances.  The change doesn't guarantee Instagram will use your photos, and given the tricky legal area, of copyright and publicity rights, they might avoid doing so, at least with photos of people, but it does give them the option.  If you are ready to disconnect from Instagram, here is some info on how to export your photos and delete your account.