Instagram Policy Change and User Backlash

Everyones favorite photo sharing social media site came under heavy criticism last Tuesday when it released its new privacy policy to users. Essentially the policy change would allow Instagram to sell users uploaded photos for a profit without compensation or permission from the user.

Instagram Logo

Users fear that their photos and photos of their loved ones might show up on a billboard advertisement or seem in some magazine ad without their consent. This sparked a series of angry tweets by users swearing that they would delete their accounts and encourage others to do so. Instagram, which was recently bought by Facebook for $1 billion dollars, responded via twitter by saying “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 article also talks about the specific line in the new “terms of use” that caused all the controversy “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.”

The one quote that stood out the most in the article was one by U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, when he said “A picture is worth a thousand words; posting one to Instagram should not cost you your privacy”.

Instagram is still working on rewording their new privacy policy as a way to contain this PR firestorm, but the lack of haste and their affiliation with Facebook has users concerned with the level of legitimacy and if they should keep their account or delete it.

Personally I dont think there is much they can say to undo what has already been done. The Instagram brand thrived on being unique and allowing users to share and express themselves on the app. Now with this policy change, it has shifted its focus on creativity and self expression, and instead is now concerned with making money. Since Facebook went public the problem of how it actually generates enough revenue to stay afloat is still an issue and I believe this is just another tactic they are trying out.

This does not only affect users who wish to share their photos with others, but business who rely on Instagram to sell their own products and brand. For example a tattoo artist might share a photo of a design he recently did for a customer, now that artwork that he created is no longer his own, and gives Instagram the ability to redistribute and sell his artwork for a profit. The same goes for any profession that is image based, photographers or illustrators are also concerned that their work might be sold without any compensation.

My advice (although I doubt this will be used) is to reimburse users whose photos are sold or redistributed, not with money but with some sort of gamification similar to Foursquare’s badge and mayor system. Even if you done compensate users with actual currency, most people these days will still participate if they know they are getting something out of it, even if that something is an intangible award.

8 thoughts on “Instagram Policy Change and User Backlash

  1. The people of the Instagram community may be angry about the company taking ownership of it’s user’s photograph’s, but it’s too be expected that Instagram would do this,in my opinion. Besides, there are other means to upload and share your photograph’s. For example, Facebook,Tumblr, to name a few. I suppose I have a bit of a bias, since I haven’t used Instagram, and never will.

  2. i dont get why every one is so up set. when you post a picture on facebook twitter or any other form a social media you allow any one to copy the picture that you follow or like and that is only if you have the privacy settings set up right and it is not impossible for someone to hack your account and take them that way. every thing you post on a social media site you have to be ok with your grandparents and grandchildren seeing

  3. I think that the biggest problem with the policy change is the wording. Other sites such as Facebook can already use any photos you upload. They can use your photos as long as they are on the website. So Instagram now changing their policy is no surprise to me.

  4. I found this article very interesting because I was misinformed about the Instagram privacy controversy. To my knowledge I had thought that Instagram was going to use the photos, to not create billboard/print advertisements, but to use the photos to sell to advertisers to track where each user has been, their interests, and what they were purchasing (foods/clothes/etc…). I feel as though that would be more beneficial to advertisers and a bigger risk of privacy infringement to users rather than using a non-professional picture taken on a low quality smartphone. That is solely my opinion though.

  5. I wonder if this will be beneficial to businesses who will now have access to more photos or if it will be negative. I’m curious to see if it has an effect on business either way.

  6. Posting pictures anywhere is a bit risky. Some people post pictures to Facebook that they know they shouldn’t. Companies can easily access your Facebook account and see a record of pictures. However, I don’t think Instagram should just assume ownership of your photos and be able to sell them.

  7. Although many Instagram users would never think to sell their photographs of cats and Starbucks cups, the real debate involves professional photographers and prominent businesses such as National Geographic. Many have cancelled their accounts due to these discrepancies. Instagram owning images could lead to devastating circumstances, such as legal rights to sell users images, and leave creators with 0 profit. Although many expected Instagram to be a safe photo sharing platform, it seems that this is hardly ever the case. Moral of the story: Don’t trust online platforms to host your photographs unless you are completely trusting of their user agreements.

  8. I think that this policy change may have more effect on businesses. Individuals should have already been using Instagram with the knowledge that anything posted is not private and can be used by anyone as they deem fit. The same holds true with any photo that is posted to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. Businesses, however, have been attempting to use Instagram as a way to give customers an inside look into the business. I think now they may take more precautions with the photos that are taken and the content that is uploaded.

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