Beware: Instagram Changes Terms of Service

Beware: Instagram Changes Terms of Service

By: Shelly Kramer
December 18, 2012

instagram's new terms of serviceInstagram just announced changes to their terms of service—and the interwebz, they are a-pissed! Beginning January 16, the new TOS and privacy policy will go into effect, introducing lengthy stipulations—called “the most significant changes in Instagram’s short history”—regarding how user photos may be used by Instagram and Facebook.

One such change involves possible photo use for advertising—and the vague language is proving to be quite problematic:

“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.”

Oh, and also? Underage users aren’t exempt and, better yet, ads may not be labeled as ads, per Instagram: “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content or commercial communications as such.”

Unlike other services that give you a choice to opt out from certain advertising or privacy settings, Instagram only gives you two options: their way or the highway. Don’t want to comply with the new TOS? Your only choice is to delete your account.

Of course, there are a few other steps you can take, as outlined by our friends at Cool Mom Tech:

Make your Instagram account private. It appears locked accounts aren’t subject to the same provisions as open accounts. The huge downside is that making your account private vastly minimizes the “networking” part of “social networking,” but if you’re adamant about staying with Instagram and don’t want to comply with the new terms of service, this is pretty much your only option.

Share more photos via Twitter. Now that Twitter’s introduced a set of photo filters, we won’t be surprised to see a sizable migration of Instagram users to Twitter. We’ve experimented with the new Twitter filters and, although they’re not quite on par with what Instagram offers, they’re still pretty nifty—and they’ll likely improve in future iterations.

Rethink your Instagram use. Don’t want photos of your kids or other personal images to end up as ads? You might want to revamp your Instagram strategy and save those photos for other photo-sharing services and apps.

Hang tight. January 16 is still a few weeks away, and a lot could change between now and then. We’ve seen quite a widespread Instagram backlash as a result of yesterday’s announcement, and we’d be shocked if they didn’t make at least a few changes between now and then in order to appease their user base.

What’s your initial take on the situation? An unsurprising change that was bound to come sometime as a result of Facebook’s Instagram purchase? Or a skeezy move designed to get too much, too soon out of an active user base?

UPDATE: In response to widespread concern and even outrage over Instagram’s new TOS (including many people threatening to delete their Instagram accounts and move to another photo-sharing service), Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom published a post designed to quell fears of photo-selling, ad use, privacy settings and more.

“I’m writing this today to let you know that we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes and eliminate the confusion. As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”

He continues, “Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. 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.”

We’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Image via The Official Grumpy Cat