When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion earlier this year, users were concerned about how Facebook might alter the service in order to recoup some of that cash. On Monday, the company gave an idea of the changes that might be in store soon, and they weren’t well received.
Instagram released its new terms of service, and two items in particular were the subject of scrutiny:
“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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”
“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”
Although users own the copyright to any images posted to the service, the terms of service also give Instagram the ability to use any users’ photos for its own purposes. And as the first item above shows, that includes using your content for advertising. It’s likely the service, like Facebook, will start to deliver targeted ads including the photos and information of people you follow. And in the second item, Instagram explicitly says it won’t always tell you what’s an ad and what’s not.
The new terms of service go into effect on Jan. 16, and only apply to photos shared on its service starting then, but they sparked an immediate backlash. There is no ability to opt-out of the terms without closing your Instagram account, leading Wired to post simple steps to download your photos from the service and delete your account.
It remains to be seen if the concerns about Instagram actually lead to a slowdown in the platform’s growth, but one company which might be well-positioned to take advantage of the fallout is Flickr. The relatively aged photo-sharing site released a new iPhone app (including Instagram-like filters) last week to generally glowing reviews and the site’s terms of service generally avoids the concerns raised by Instagram’s changes.
For most users, today’s announcement will likely barely register, especially since there are not yet any tangible changes to the app. Once ads are actually introduced, there will probably be another, slightly louder uproar, although it’s unlikely to suddenly kill Instagram’s popularity.
As the chorus of complaints – and quick acceptance – around every Facebook change has shown, after the initial shock users are fairly tolerant of such moves. It’s clear, however, changes even to the often dense legal language in the terms of service is being highly scrutinized for social media platforms. Users should take a long look at the rights these services have carved out for themselves regarding your content, and decide whether it’s worth the ease of sharing on those platforms.