Instagram ad shift creates online uproar

2012-12-19 08:50

San Francisco – Instagram faced a backlash after the Facebook-owned photo-sharing service rewrote its rules to give itself the right to sell users’ pictures for advertising without compensation.

Changes to the privacy policy and terms of service set to take effect January 16, include wording that allows people’s pictures be used by advertisers at Instagram or Facebook worldwide, royalty-free.

Twitter and Instagram forums were ablaze with debate regarding whether to delete accounts before the new rules kick in.

“Bye-bye Instagram,” tweeted Scott Ninness. “Who in their right mind will use a service that allows your images (to) be sold with no financial remuneration to you?”

“Everybody should continue using Instagram but just take blurry photos of sandwiches,” suggested a Twitter user by the screen-name Michele Catalano.

The new terms of service state, “You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service.”

The terms also state that “a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Instagram contended it is not claiming ownership of people’s pictures, just that it can do what it wishes with images.

Some people tweeted in defense of Instagram, arguing that it is a “mega-business” that needs to make money.

Another Twitter user predicted that a handful of Instagram users will abandon the service and “everyone else will stick around.”

“Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them,” Instagram said in a blog post when the policy changes were disclosed on Monday.

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

The move that would let advertisers work with people’s Instagram pictures comes as the service tries to channel people to its website to view posted images.

Internet rights activists at the Electronic Frontier Foundation advised Instagram users that if they are uncomfortable with the possibility of the service taking liberties with their photos, the only choice is to leave.

“Instagram should reconsider this policy, because it conflicts with the three key principles we developed for social networking services: informed decision making, control and the right to leave,” EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl said in a message on the organization’s website.

Facebook did not respond to an AFP request for comment, but Instagram fired off a Twitter message indicating it was paying attention to the reactions being expressed by users.

“We’ve heard you that the updates to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are raising a lot of questions,” Instagram said in a tweet. “We’ll have more to share very soon.”

Instagram, which has some 100 million users, is seeking to route photo viewers to its own website, where it has the potential to make money from ads or other mechanisms, instead of letting Twitter get the benefits.

Previously, Instagram pictures shared in messages tweeted from smartphones could be viewed unaltered at Twitter.

Twitter responded by adding Instagram-style photo sharing features of its own.

Yahoo! joined the fray last week by making it more enticing for iPhone users to use its Flickr photo service.

Instagram rose to stardom with the help of Twitter, but has distanced itself from the messaging service since Facebook completed its acquisition of Instagram in September.

The original price was pegged at $1 billion but the final value was less because of a decline in the social network’s share price.

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