In a dramatic change to its data-sharing policy, photo app Instagram changed its Terms of Service on December 17 to say that they can sell their users’ photos without compensating or even notifying them. The web quickly flew into panic and frenzy over the changes, though unless users delete their accounts by January 16 when the changes take effect, they cannot opt out of the terms.
Of course, Instagram is owned by Facebook, and this widespread commercialization of users’ images is the worst-case scenario that many privacy watchdogs feared Facebook had in the works when they purchased Instagram for $1 billion in April. “It’s asking people to agree to unspecified future commercial use of their photos,” Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told CNET. “That makes it challenging for someone to give informed consent to that deal.”
The change in terms was also quick to note that Instagram will not be liable for any “use or disclosure of content.” The hypothetical privacy situations that this change in data privacy has brought about are many, and it has been the subject of much conjecture.
As many have pointed out, this change in data privacy essentially turns Instagram into the world’s largest and most popular stock photo database for anyone (or any company) to peruse and purchase. The widespread outrage on the web over the past two days has caused Instagram to issue a response via their blog.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram came out in full damage control mode today by telling users ‘Thank you, and we’re listening.’ He went on to say that they are committed to answering questions, fixing mistakes and eliminating confusion around what will happen to user photos.
The three major points addressed by Systrom are Advertising on Instagram, Ownership Rights and Privacy Settings. In a nutshell,
- Instagram plans to experiment with innovative advertising methods, but their intention is not to sell your photos to others.
- “Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos.”
- As for privacy settings, nothing has changed. You still have control over who can see your photos.
We’ll have to wait and see if this will be enough to calm down the blogosphere and keeps their user base in tact.
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