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The Real Fail Behind Instagram’s TOS

The Real Fail Behind Instagram’s TOS

Instagram LogoEarlier this week, Instagram announced via their blog that they were updating their terms of service and their privacy policy, to go effective January 16, 2013.

At first, the changes sounded extremely minor with Instagram saying that “Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.” The blog post went on to say that the privacy policy updates were mostly aimed at helping Instagram function as part of Facebook, which recently bought the company.

However, as people began to dig into the updated TOS, they quickly began to find things that disturbed them and that were not in the previous (current) version.

The most notable issue, accoridng to Declan McCullagh at CNet, was that Instagram could now sell your photos, including for advertising purposes.

This was, according to McCullagh, because the new terms made the license to your photos both transferrable and sub-licenseable and added that:

“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.”

But while the advertising issue is the most noted, it’s far from the only point of contention. Jenna Wortham and Nick Bilton at the New York Times note that the new TOS also lets Instagram share other information with third parties, does not require ads to be labeled as ads and does not offer a way to opt out of the new licensing arrangement.

Users, seeing the reporting, have grown upset by this and, according to several reports, are leaving (or threatening to leave) in droves.

However, most likely, the news is not nearly as dire as it’s painted to be. Not only is Instragram’s plans not likely as sinister many think but it’s not the first TOS battle in recent history and the others have ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

Still, the issue of overreaching TOSes, or at least the perception thereof, will likely only go farther uphill from here as the factors that have driven Instragram to this point are not going away any time soon.

Fortunately, history can help put things in some perspective.Continue Reading