As Freaked-Out Social Media Users Exit, Instagram Says Newest Service Terms Will End 'Confusion'

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Updated: In response to social media users freaking out over new Instagram terms of service that seemingly give the site the right to use an individual’s photos—“along with any associated metadata”—for advertising purposes, a leader of the site is promising that the new terms of service will be revised to eliminate this concern.

In an Instagram Blog post Tuesday afternoon titled “Thank you and we’re listening,” co-founder Kevin Systrom said “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.”

Although Systom said “it is not our intention to sell your photos” or make them “part of an advertisement,” his post does not absolutely eliminate the possibility of user material being commingled with commercial posts:

“Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way,” he writes. “In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce—like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo—might show up if you are following this business.”

The new terms, which were announced Monday and take effect in mid-January, have been prompting a user exodus, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Tech Now blog and the Wall Street Journal ‘s Digits blog.

Although an earlier Instagram Blog post states that “Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them” under the new privacy policy and terms of use, the language at issue, which the New York Times’ Bits blog publicized Monday, seemingly states otherwise.

“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 user name, 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 key language states.

Numerous other erosions of privacy in recent years have made widespread distribution of once-personal information ubiquitous, but the potential use of personal photos for corporate purposes clearly has struck a nerve. “While the chances are slim that your photo of your cat will end up on the side of a bus selling Meow Mix, the change to the photo-sharing company’s terms of service is broad in its assertion of rights to use its user’s photos,” writes Wired’s Gadget Lab. The blog post offers step-by-step instructions about how a user can delete his or her Instagram account, and a CNET article also provides advice about backing up photos first.

Among those protesting with his feet is Noah Kalina, the photographer who took wedding pictures for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. In a Monday tweet, he urged pros and non-pros to “walk away” from the new Instagram terms of service concerning photos and stop posting images there. Instagram was acquired by Facebook earlier this year.

“If you want to use me or my work all you have to do is change this clause and say you will ask first. We can take it from there,” Kalina posted on Instagram. “If not, I have to leave, and a lot of friends are coming with.”

Tech Now also includes a number of screenshots of Instagram pages for other users that effectively are serving as advertisements for competing photo-sharing sites.

Hat tip: Mashable.

Additional coverage:

Techdirt: “Everyone’s Up In Arms Over Instagram’s Terms Of Service They Didn’t Read In The First Place”

ABC News: “’#Instagate’: Instagram Claims Right to License Users’ Photos to Advertisers; Users Protest “

CNN: “Instagram users revolt over privacy changes”

USA Today: “How your Instagram photo might end up in an ad”

Corporate Intelligence (Wall Street Journal, sub. req.): “Why Instagram’s Fine Print Stands Out”

Updated at 5:20 p.m. to include new material from subsequent Instagram Blog post.

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