This morning we reported that Instagram changed their terms of service and in their own words said “businesses or other entities may pay us to display your photos (along with any associated metadata) in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.” This essentially dumbs down to Instagram has permission to sell your photos.
In a fortunate turn of events, however, it looks like this was all just a big miscommunication. Instagram posted a detailed overview of what their new clause in their terms of service really means on their official blog this evening.
From the start, Instagram was created to become a business. Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. 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.
Instagram will not be putting your photos up for sale, rather the company has the ability to use your photos to personalize ads. This is exactly what Facebook and Google are already doing, so it should be of less concern. For those of you still not understanding what this means, I will give you an example.
If you are following a local clothing store on Instagram and that particular clothing store wants to get more followers it will pay Instagram to do so. The way Instagram plans to get the clothing store more followers will be to entice other people you are personally connected with to follow it. Essentially what will happen is a sponsored post will show up on your friends photo feed where it will show that you are following the company and they should to. This includes showing your profile pictures and other meta data.
When you upload photos to Instagram, they do not suddenly become the property of Instagram, they are yours and always will be. You are simply granting Instagram the limited ability to serve personalized ads that involve your pictures, so they don’t have to revert to annoying banner ads.
Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.
Instagram has commented that they “are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.” Why a multi-billion dollar company couldn’t figure a way to properly explain themselves is beyond me, but at least you can rest easy knowing your Instagram photos are safe.
Just remember though, when you use any sort of free service, you are the product being sold and the result is often privacy woes, which we were all reminded of today.