Published on 18 Dec 2012 Sections , , ,

Instagram photo privacy change angers users

The popular photo sharing site Instagram, which was bought by Facebook earlier this year, is changing its privacy policy to allow it to sell on to advertisers any photo uploaded by its users.

The popular photo sharing site Instagram, which was bought by Facebook earlier this year, is changing its privacy policy to allow it to sell on any photo uploaded by its users to advertisers.

The change was announced yesterday on Instagram’s website, and the company released an overview of all the changes to its current privacy policy.

Two items in the terms and conditions in particular have caused outrage among users and raised eyebrows among data protection watchdog groups.

The first explains that as Instagram’s business model is supported by advertising revenue, it is changing its terms so that any images or details uploaded by its users could be sold to advertisers, without any further approval or indeed payment.

It reads:

“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.”

Such terms and conditions are of course outrageous. Prof Douwe Korff, privacy and data protection expert

Furthermore, Instagram has also specified that images potentially uploaded by children will also be eligible to be sold on, as by agreeing to the website’s terms they are stating that their parents have already agreed for the images to be sold on:

“If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata) on your behalf.”

Deleting accounts

These two changes, which are due to become effective on 16 January 2013, have provoked fury among many users.

Instagram’s popularity lies in the fact that by a simple application of filters, it can change a user’s photos and make them more pleasing to the eye. The users then joins a large social network and can upload their photos and share them with others.

However, on the same page that Instagram announced these changes, the anger of their users was evident, and many threatened to abandon the service when the changes come into force:

“Well, I’m deleting my account on January 15, 2013. No thanks to Facebook greed here.” – crispy chomps

“Oh, well that clears that up, said 100 million users looking into deleting their accounts and removing their photos so they don’t end up in ads for which they are not reimbursed or even consulted.”Random Banter

“Bye bye Instagram…” @jponge

However, not all of the users were against the changes, and were more concerned about Instagram’s apparent fall-out with Twitter after it was bought by Facebook for $1bn.

Earlier this month, Instagram shut off a functionality that allowed Twitter to display Instagram pictures, while Twitter has introduced its own photo color-filters to compete with Instagram.


Others have defended Instagram’s move, saying as a business that is supported by advertising, it must seek ways to pay for the hosting and services it provides free to its users.

For its part, Instagram has said the changes are essential for Instagram and Facebook to operate more closely after the buyout, and that in doing so they will “combat spam more effectively.”

On its blog, it writes:

“Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.

“Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.

“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.”

Data protection challenges

Channel 4 News spoke to Professor Douwe Korff at London Metropolitan University, a privacy and data protection expert, who warned that Instagram’s proposal will face strong opposition, particularly in Europe.

“Such terms and conditions are of course outrageous,” he said, “and they would not survive court challenges in many European jurisdictions, be that under contract, consumer law or data protection rules.”

He added that such terms and conditions are far from uncommon, especially online.

Professor Korff also warned that this could become the first case of users leaving an online service in droves because of such terms and conditions.

The changes will come into force in four weeks’ time, and do not apply to photos uploaded prior to this date.

However, any users who use the service after this date must accept the changes or leave.

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