Popular photo-sharing social media platform Instagram recently unveiled its new Terms of Service agreement and it is already eliciting outcry from millions of its amateur photographer users. The new legal language, which will take effect on January 16, grants Instagram unprecedented access in how it can use its members’ pictures and personal information. Here are 8 new provisions outlined in the Terms of Service that have prompted users to flee the service:
1. Instagram Can Do Whatever It Wants with Your Photos
While Instagram insists that it does not own the photos you upload to the service, the new terms seem pretty generous in what it can do with your photos, making no significant distinction in how they do not effectively own the pictures.
2. Your Photos Can Be Used in Advertisements
If Instagram wants to use your photos in ads or sell them to outside companies, it not only can, but it does not need to seek your permission to do so. In fact, Instagram does not need to even inform you at all if it sells your photos.
3. You Will Not Be Compensated
Should Instagram use your photos for commercial purposes, don’t expect a sudden windfall. The terms explicitly state that they have no obligation to give the photographers a percentage of any profits from your photos.
4. Your Information Is Shared As Well
Any information Instagram knows about you can be sold and shared with affiliates and outside companies. Considering that this information can be packaged along with your personal photos and even commodified, the sum of all of its parts could be particularly problematic.
5. New Rules Apply to Kids, Too
Technically, kids as young as 13 are permitted to join Instagram. But just because they’re minors doesn’t mean Instagram gives them a pass. Supposedly, by agreeing to the terms of service, underage users are signifying that their parents and guardians are fine with all of the advertisement stipulations, although it’s doubtful that many parents will even be aware that their kids have agreed to this on their behalf.
6. There’s No Timeline Going Forward or Backwards
After mid-January, all photos you’ve posted from the past will be subject to the new Terms of Service. How long can Instagram use your photos however it sees fit? Given that the terms do not stipulate how long they reserve this right for, indefinitely seems to be the best guest at the present.
7. Instagram Accepts No Liability
Though Instagram permits users to designate photos as private and only visible to certain friends, don’t bank on that supposed safeguard. Apparently, “mistakes” have been known to happen, so Instagram added language to protect itself should content you marked as private doesn’t wind up that way for one reason or another.
8. Instagram Is Not Storage
Some people use Instagram as a place to store their pictures, but Instagram insists it will not be responsible for deleting any and all of your photos. It is feasible that you will lose your Instagram photos, and if you don’t have these pictures backed up elsewhere, you’re out of luck.
The negative reaction to the new Terms of Service has been so intense that Instagram has already issued a response. The company says it will take the feedback into account and never intended to sell your photos, despite its wording making that a definite possibility. Instead, Instagram explains that it hopes to incorporate your pictures/likeness/interests into advertisements on the social media service itself. The explanation is too ambiguous to know what that will entail (which is undoubtedly intentional), but ultimately, Instagram doesn’t give much nearly as much reassurance as it wants you to believe it has.
The writing should have been on the wall when Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion – obviously the media giant had envisioned a way to monetize the photography app. While other social media companies have similar stipulations written into their terms of service, Instagram seems to have given itself more leeway than ever. We’ll have to wait to see whether Instagram will actually utilize these permissions it has designed for itself, but it is important for people to at least be aware what they are agreeing to as social media companies continue to figure out how best to monetize their businesses.
Photo Credit: Brent Ozar