Instagram Terms of Service Roils Users

By David Radd

Posted December 20, 2012

Instagram recently announces changes to their Terms of Use agreement, which will be effective January 16. While many expected more integration between Facebook and Instagram, (and indeed the ToU states that the information that users have shared on Instagram, about favorite places, bands, restaurants or hobbies will be used to target ads) but more eyebrow raising was a clause over the photos themselves.

"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,” stated the Instagram Terms of Use agreement.

The lack of any notification is disturbing to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Most states have laws that limit the use of a person’s ‘name or likeness’ for commercial purposes without consent,” Rotenberg said. “The legal purpose is to allow people to obtain the commercial value of their images and endorsements, which is a big issue for celebrities and others, but also a reasonable concern for Facebook users whose images are used by Facebook to encourage friends to buy products and services.”

The terms also stated that underage users of Instagram are also essentially agreeing to the same rules and ads may not be labeled as such. “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such,” the company wrote.

“Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups,” said Instagram in a blog post. “This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.”

The outrage over the clause was immediate and pushed Instagram to announce that they are taking out the language saying user photos can be used in ads. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said the company is exploring other forms of advertising to make money.

"Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience," said Systrom.



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