Move marks first big change in policy at Instagram since it was bought in August by Facebook
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom took to the company’s blog on Tuesday night to reassure users, and acknowledged it had used confusing language – a mistake he promised to correct.
The free social app is implementing the changes from January 16th, with a number of key changes to terms and conditions that raised eyebrows among its 100 million users.
It’s the first big change in policy since Facebook completed the acquisition of Instagram in August, and the move is intended to integrate the two services.
The company’s rise in popularity has been swift in the two years since its initial release. It reached the one billion photo mark in May this year, when 58 images were being uploaded every second.
It has also moved on to the Android platform, releasing its app for Google’s phone software in April 2012.
Among the changes are Instagram washing its hands of responsibility for uploaded photos, and the warning it could use paid or sponsored content without notifying users that it is doing so.
But the main quibble was over a small provision inserted that gives Instagram the rights to use images commercially on the service to third parties.
The company insists users retain all ownership of their photos, and users grant Instagram” a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide licence” to use the content”.
It also says: “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 move has users scrambling to close accounts, with one user describing it as “Instagrams suicide note”.
The language, as usual, was broad-ranging – presumably to cover all eventualities for the future.
But it sparked panic among users and privacy groups, particularly regarding younger users.
To use Instagram, you have to be over the age of 13, but privacy groups have raised concerns about the use of teenagers’ photos for advertising purposes.
The updated contract covers that; those users under 18 must agree that at least one parent or guardian has agreed to their content being used in such a way.
But the company has since distanced itself from any suggestion it would be exploiting photos in such a way. Systrom said it planned to remove the reference that led users to believe photos could become part of an advertisement.
“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram,” he wrote. “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.”