New Instagram Privacy Policy Stirs Up Social Media Outcry

by T+B Blog Team on December 19, 2012

Facebook’s photo-sharing website, Instagram, published new Privacy Policy and Terms of Use this week, triggering a public outcry on social media about the company’s right to sell and share user content. In the words of one Twitter user: “Instagram says it can sell your photos, without telling you, without paying you. Not cool.”

The complaints prompted Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, to announce in a blog post yesterday: “Since making these changes, we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean. I’m writing this today to let you know we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion.”

The updated policy, which is scheduled to go into effect on January 16, 2013, included a section about information sharing that details the website’s ability to share user content with related companies (read: its parent company – Facebook, affiliates, and advertisers) and hinted at the introduction of advertising on the site.

Here’s what the new policy stated about sharing your information:

  • Instagram can disclose identifying and tracking data based on your activity to “Service Providers” (third parties that help provide the service) as well as to third-party advertising partners such as ad networks.
  •  The company may make your data anonymous and share aggregated information with other parties.

Two additions to the company’s policy address its rights to sell iusers’ photos. One section deletes the phrase “limited license” and inserts the words “transferable” and “sub-licensable,” which allows Facebook to license users’ photos to any other organization. Another section states that “a business or other entity may pay us to display your… photos… in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you” — allowing the company to charge money for users’ photos.

Instagram users cannot opt out of the policy unless they delete their account before January. You can read a summary of the changes in Instagram’s policy in the New York Times article, “What Instagram’s New Terms of Service Mean for You.”

An Instagram company blog posting states: “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.”

As the social media landscape continues to shift, brand owners will need to be particularly vigilant in protecting their trademarks, copyrights, and other IP online.

How do you think policies like this one impact the branding community?

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