December 18, 2012

Instagram: What you need to know.

Since was originally posted, there have been developments from the story. I’ve marked the updates down at the bottom.

Not that long ago, Facebook acquired Instagram. They integrated it into Facebook, and the internet rejoiced.

Well, today Instagram began informing users about their updated Terms of Service– mostly to bring them more into line with Facebook’s own ToS.

I’ve blogged about Facebook’s ToS and Privacy settings before, and one of Facebook’s more controversial features was the roll out of their social ads- which take activities that you make (liking pages, comments, etc) to advertise a service. It didn’t take long before they allowed you to opt-out of it.

Why am I mentioning FB’s social ads?

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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.”

That’s part of the Instagram ToS. Essentially, they’re rolling out ads, and will be using your photos, data and even the metadata from your photos. And you don’t get any compensation.

Not only will there be ads, but Instagram notes that they probably won’t even be clearly marked as ads. And as of right now, there is no way to opt out from any of this.

This next part of the ToS is even more important:

Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, 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, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/.

That’s right. By having your photos on Instagram, you’re agreeing to let them use your photos royalty-free. You can adjust who sees some of your data, but they can use your data how they want.

Wil Wheaton weighed in with how these changes might affect celebrities. I’d already been thinking about the artists I knew who used Instagram to share works in progress, but Wil’s perspective hits a lot of the same issues I saw.

The changes to Instagram’s ToS goes into affect January 16, 2013.

As of right now I’m still on Instagram, but will be deleting my account before then. So for the next couple weeks I’m going to be trying out different camera apps (some with social features, some with just sharing capabilities) to see if there are other alternatives out there that might work.

If you have an Instagram alternative that you like, comment on this post! I can only review Android apps, so keep that in mind. (I’m going to try to find ones that have apps for both iPhone and Android)

Update: 12/18 1:45 pm It would seem that Instagram noticed the backlash on the internet. Mashable reports that they will be having some discussions about the Terms of Service.

Of course, who knows what that means.

Update 2: 12/13 6:45 pm Instagram blogged about the backlash, admitting they weren’t very clear in the way they wrote it (actually, they said that we just misinterpreted it because legal jargon is so tough). Ads will be coming to Instagram, but they won’t be selling your photos to be used in ads. And they’ve already removed the verbage that made it seem as though they were going to use your pictures and name in ads- very similar to Facebook’s social ads.

While I completely understand that Instagram needs to make money, this “admission” feels more like them simply trying to cover their asses. Because frankly, it isn’t that hard to say that they’re going to roll out ads and allow brands to show that you’ve liked pictures of theirs.

(Of course, they didn’t address the bit where they said they wouldn’t divulge which posts were ads at all- which frankly is a disappointment.)

Update 3: 12/20 6:45pm Instagram released another statement, one that’s less snarky than the first. They’ll be rolling back to the original ToS so far as the advertising section is concerned, and will be holding off on the advertising until they can explain fully how it will impact users.

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