Oh, Instagram… why’d you have to go and do that?
Today it’s been widely reported that after Facebook got a hold of Instagram a few months back, there have been changes made to their Privacy Policies which explicitly allow the owners to sell on anything you upload to the service, without any recompense.
Normally I’m not too concerned about a lot of these privacy outcries – sometimes the policy wordings are necessary to provide the service in question, such as through the use of social APIs to display your pictures – this time though, I’ve decided to jump ship.
Here’s the offending paragraph from the updated policy:
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.
Why’s this matter?
This change to the policy means that Instagram and their owners can sell on your pictures or comments for nothing, and you get zero say in what they’re actually used for. To give that some sort of context, whilst it’s unlikely that many of the filtered snapshots are going to end up used in adverts anytime soon, it does open the door for corporations to do whatever they like with them.
Don’t fancy one of the pictures of you in your house being used to promote a brand? What about being used to promote an anti abortion campaign? What about a picture of your kids being used for something you don’t approve of?
Now you’re getting the idea.
Not only is there no recompense, no say in where your images might end up, and no way to opt out after the 16th of January… this further devalues the worth of anything you create. Why should private companies be able to use intimate details of your lives to make money from?
I loved Instagram. I loved being able to fire up my crappy phone and snap a blurry picture of what was going on round about me to share immediately when I didn’t have one of my proper cameras on me… (as well as the endless supply of girls taking scantily clad self portraits in mirrors) but I’m not prepared to have that become some kicking ball for corporate politics though, and neither should you. This isn’t just about some abstract, unrealistic idea of privacy, but making sure that companies can’t just change the goalposts halfway through the game and expect nobody to complain.
Time to make Facebook’s purchase of Instagram worthless, and delete your account.
edit: If you happen to be one of those ‘pro’ photographers who used Instagram to upload pictures that weren’t just smartphone snaps, then you should definitely remove your account, immediately.
There’s also been a lot of chat about how various networks ‘own’ your content. This isn’t correct. By uploading pictures Instagram does not claim sole ownership over them – it doesn’t stop you from selling on the content or doing with it what you wish, but it does grant them a licence which means they can use it for whatever they please.
Update: Instagram have realised they’ve made a massive cock up with this debacle, and issued a statement saying that they never had any plans to sell on content to advertisers… blaming the language as being unclear. I’m afraid that coming from an organisation now owned by Facebook, that excuse just doesn’t wash. If this was cobbled together by an Internet startup then it might be plausible, but from a major international company listed on the stock exchange, with an army of expensive lawyers to scrutinise every detail of the language of any terms and conditions? Pull the other one.