TOS Cheat Sheet

If Instagram's flash-change in its terms of service scared you, consider how your other favorite photo-sharing social services treat your images.

Users Keep The Rights To Their Photos

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes

TOS Contains Clause About Re-Purposing User Content

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: No
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes

May Share Your Data With a Company That Acquired It

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes

Targets Ads Based On User Data

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Maybe. "We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners. This information would allow third-party ad networks to, among other things, deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you."
Facebook: Yes

Provides A Way To Download Your Content

Twitter: Almost
Flickr: No
Instagram: No
Facebook: Yes

TOS Cheat Sheet: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr

Before you ditch Instagram for another photo-sharing site, read its terms of service. Or at least read our cheat sheet.

"How to Quit Instagram."
"No, You're Not Going To Quit Instagram."
"Why I quit Instagram."

So went the progression of headlines after Instagram changed its terms of use agreement on Tuesday. The company added language that would allow it to place ads "on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content" (it has since agreed to remove this clause) and share data with its new owner, Facebook.

As users reportedly flock away from the service in reaction to the change, they might want to consider the terms of service for the services to which they're flocking.

Unless they've adjusted privacy settings accordingly, Facebook has been using their content as advertising since it introduced sponsored stories last year. Flickr, one of the services many users picked up in lieu of Instagram, has a clause in its terms of service that says it may adopt new privacy policies if its parent company, Yahoo, is sold. Imagine the outrage! No matter whether you publicly post photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Flickr, you give the service a worldwide, royalty-free license to your content.

Reading terms of service agreements isn't fun (take it from someone who spent all day doing so). Here's a cheat-sheet to how your photo-sharing options compare on key criteria:


Users Keep The Rights To Their Photos:

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes


By posting your content on any of these services, you grant them a license to it. But none of them own the rights to your photos. Nor would they really want that liability.


TOS Contains Clause About Re-Purposing User Content:

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: No
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes


Here's Twitter's language:

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use...Such additional uses by Twitter, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services."

Here's the new language Instagram announced, the proposed change that caused an uproar (Cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom has promised to remove offending parts of the changes before they go into effect Jan. 16):

"Some of the Instagram Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you."

Here's what Instagram's terms are currently:

"Some of the Instagram Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you."

Here's Facebook's language:

"You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place."

Flickr stands apart here. Its TOS, which it shares with other Yahoo products, says its license for content such as photos allows it to (emphasis mine): "distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available."


May Share Your Data With A Company That Acquired It:

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Yes
Facebook: Yes


Instagram's plans to share data with Facebook has caused some grief. Other services' share with their parents (present and future), but they state their intentions up front.

Twitter: "In the event that Twitter is involved in a bankruptcy, merger, acquisition, reorganization or sale of assets, your information may be sold or transferred as part of that transaction. The promises in this Privacy Policy will apply to your information as transferred to the new entity."

Flickr: The service uses Yahoo's Term's of Service. "We transfer information about you if Yahoo! is acquired by or merged with another company. In this event, Yahoo! will notify you before information about you is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy."

Instagram: Will share data with "businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is a part of" (namely, Facebook).

Facebook: Will share data with "businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of" (namely, Instagram).

Targets Ads Based On User Data:

Twitter: Yes
Flickr: Yes
Instagram: Maybe. "We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners. This information would allow third-party ad networks to, among other things, deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you."
Facebook: Yes


Provides A Way To Download Your Content:

In other words, if you want to leave, can you actually pack up a suitcase?

Twitter: Almost
Flickr: No
Instagram: No
Facebook: Yes


[Image: Flickr user HyoJung Kim]

Add New Comment

5 Comments

  • Stephanie Fysh

    Flickr *DOES* provide a way to download your content (photos and videos, not comments and the like added on the site). All users can download one photo at a time on the site; paying users can download the original size of the photo. The API means that several third-party developers offer batch downloading. 

  • Fred

    You missed the most damaging change of all. Though the Instagram post goes to great lengths to assure users "own" their content, Instagram retains rights to do just about anything they like with it (in real estate law, these would be called easements). Ownership of content (as well as privacy) is made just about meaningless by this clause, not the ones you quote above:

    "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."