Whaa?!

Monday: Instagram updates its privacy policy and terms of service. One in particular--that states a business can pay Instagram for users' photos and information without compensating the users themselves--catches the eye of Tumblr bloggers and others.

[Instagram photo via Flickr user Kristian Nesser]

Arrg.

Monday, 10 p.m. An early report from CNET kicks off the media paper trail. "Why I'm Leaving Instagram" stories begin to abound on the web.

[Instagram photo via Flickr user neng_]

Riot!

Tuesday afternoon: As word starts to get out, disgruntled users--including celebs like LeBron James--express their outrage on Twitter.

[Instagram photo via Flickr user pbaesse]

Sorry.

Tuesday, 5 p.m. CEO Kevin Systrom publishes a post to the Instagram blog apologizing for the misunderstanding, stating, "it is not our intention to sell your photos." However, there's no mention of any potential changes to the new terms of service.

[Instagram photo via Flickr user s myers]

Instagram's 24-Hour Terms Of Service Whoopsie

As quick as you can share a heavily filtered photo, Instagram seemingly reverses course on a TOS change that many thought would mean it could sell your photos to advertisers.

The past 24 hours have given Instagram a world of PR pain. After the photo-sharing service updated its privacy policy and terms of service on Monday, news rapidly spread that the company was planning to sell users' photos and data to third-party advertisers without compensating or notifying the users themselves. Then, after a day of turmoil and biting user backlash over the changes, Instagram finally resurfaced with a blog post from CEO Kevin Systrom, who stressed that "it is not our intention to sell your photos." Here's the timeline of every oops and upset that happened along the way:

1. Instagram Quietly Changes Its Terms Of Service



Instagram photo: Flickr user Sputnik world

The photo sharing giant makes a few updates to its terms of service. The updates include new provisions under the "Rights" section that mark a potentially significant shift in the way Instagram can share user information—including photos, browser activity, and location data—with third-party advertisers:
  • "To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you."
  • "You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service's Privacy Policy..."
Instagram also publishes a blog post regarding its new privacy and terms of service updates, but the post includes no mention of the specific new changes that would soon stoke the user rage heard 'round the Internet.


2. The Web Notices, Gets Angry

Instagram photo: Flickr user ohsarahrose

Late Monday night, around 10 p.m., an early report from CNET comes out. The news quickly makes its way into stories across various outlets Tuesday morning, from stories about why the Instagram policy change could be good for Flickr's new iPhone app to this one from The Register with the headline, "New Year's resolution: Don't use Instagram, it'll sell YOUR latte pics."


3. Everyone Gets Angry

Instagram photo: Flickr user black18shirts

As word of the terms of service change starts spreading, users start backlashing against Instagram (on Twitter, of course). Many threaten to quit the service and find alternative camera apps:

" Who else is deleting their Instagram? These _____ be actin up." -@mfeeney

"So i hear IG will start selling photos that posted for their own profit. Is this correct? If so then me and everyone i know will be OUT!!" -LeBron James, @KingJames

"Looks like I'll be quitting @instagram in January if they don't drop the new policy. Why would I voluntarily let my art be stolen and sold?" -@marydoodles

"I WILL BE QUITTING INSTAGRAM TODAY. WHAT A BUMMER. YOU SHOULD ALL READ THEIR NEW RULES." -@Pink


4. Instagram Does Damage Control, But Says The New Terms Are Here To Stay

Instagram photo: Flickr user dustinenderlong

CEO Kevin Systrom posted to the Instagram blog stating, "To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos." Systrom didn't say anything about reversals to the updated terms of service, but he did attempt to do some damage control by reminding users that, technically, Instagram has never claimed ownership rights to users' photos, and plans to stay that way. Systrom also says Instagram has no plans to field users' photos to be part of advertisements. "Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience," he writes. "Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time."


5. Will This Be Enough To Keep Users From Going Astray?

What does this all mean for Instagram? The amount of user vitriol sparked by the initial interpretation of its new policy changes could be enough to keep some disgruntled users walking away from the service and looking to other alternatives from hungry competitors, such as Flickr.

[Broken Lenses Image: Flickr user Pedro fait de la Photo]

Add New Comment

17 Comments

  • Dick Johnson

    I love how idiots share everything with the world, and then are offended when the the world sees it.

  • Dick Johnson

    LOL..."It's not our intention [now that we got caught] to sell your photo's.  It was only our intention to use your photos in any way we pleased SUCKERS!"

  • Robert-Jon Eckhardt

    I'm sorry but what you're saying is not correct. Take these quotes from the blog:
    "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."

    "...we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos."

    "To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

    "The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question."

    They are very literally promising to update the Terms according to this criticisms. It's true they're not talking about reversals, but the current Terms are certainly not here to stay.

    [Posted this under the wrong account initially. Apologies.]

  • RJ's Nier Vlog

    I'm sorry but what you're saying is not correct. Take these quotes from the blog:

    "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."

    "...we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos."

    "To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

    "The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question."

    They are very literally promising to update the Terms according to this criticisms. It's true they're not talking about reversals, but the current Terms are certainly not here to stay. 

  • keif

    Kentonallen else said it best on twitter: "File sharing: you don't mind when it's some musician's song or a designer's game. When it's your shitty Instagram photos it all changes, eh?"

  • asdad

    instagram always sucked. all pictures uploaded there look like crap, because of the filters. only idiots use it.

  • chichi63

    Uh, no, the internet didn't freak out about something that doesn't matter - it does matter.  And Instagram is counting on users like ILIKEFISH to trust them.  Really??  They didn't change their terms and it's very obvious that they will have a right to sell your content without your permission.

  • ILikeFish

    The internet freaked out about something that doesn't matter. Colour me shocked.

  • Tyler Gray

    You really think it doesn't matter? I'm pretty die hard about not putting too much personal stuff on social media. But Instagram was the one place where I did--I only allowed a handful of friends to follow my private account. I was planning to dig in and find out of my private account was also subject the terms of service, but I assumed so. And suddenly, the whole reason I set my account to private and shared pics I wouldn't have shared publicly was undermined. I was -- and might still be -- ready to move on. Also, though, I'm the "older" generation on this, and I realize that most young people today never think twice about sharing their life. For me, my personal data is like a currency. And I'm not quite ready to give it away to the World Bank Of Facebook. Also, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

  • Jonathan Garlick

    Even if something is set as private on an app/web setting etc, if you are very sure you don't want it out there, don't put it on the internet in the first place AT ALL. Faux private control on services like Facebook and Instagram really give people at a false sense of security. 

  • geekgoddess2

    Thanks Jonathan for those words of wisdom.   You are 100% correct.   There is no guarantee that anything you put in 'the cloud' is truly private.  Unless of course 'the cloud' you use is your own server at your own residence with enhanced protection.  Facebook's photo 'tags' are a great way for anyone to find out who you are, including government entities.