Instagram Can Sell My Photos? What Does This Mean?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know by now that Instagram updated their privacy policy and terms of service on Monday evening. These updates include a long list of rules and regulations detailing how your photographs can be used by Instagram and its parent company, Facebook - and needless to say it has got many people's knickers in a collective twist. Here's just some of the backlash on Twitter:

So what does this actually mean to you?

Firstly it's very important to point out that the changes, which will come into effect on January 16th 2013, will not apply to pictures shared before that date.

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Both Instagram and Facebook have recently hinted at plans to place advertisements into the photo-sharing application and these changes may very well be the first hint of what they may have planned for future. So here's our guide to what the new terms will mean for you.

1. Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook, as well as outside affiliates and advertisers. 

"We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organisations that help us provide the service to you... (and) third-party advertising partners."

Instagram has said that these changes have been made to help Instagram “function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.” The move will allow advertisers in Facebook's ad network to access and use Instagram data such as hobbies, food, fashion and places to better target adverts at those users. 

2. Instagram can now use your photos and identity for revenue - without any compensation  to you. 

“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.

Under the new section called "Rights" in the terms of service, Instagram note that they can use your photographs and your identity in adverts. What this means is that any photos uploaded to Instagram could end up in an advertisement or used on Facebook advertising. In another twist - if you take a photo of your friend - who doesn't use Instagram - they could end up in their own advert! 

3. Advertisements may not be identified as such.

“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”

Whether a deliberate attempt to deceive its users or just another part of the complicated terms - Instagram has said that ads will not necessarily be labeled as ads.

4. Underage users have to abide by the same rules.

If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”

Athough Instagram's terms of use state that you must be at least 13 years old to sign up for the service, the new terms state that teenagers using the service agree that a parent or guardian is aware that their image, username and photos can also be used in ads.

5. You're photos could live forever! - Even if you don't want them to

“If you remove information that you posted to the Service, copies may remain viewable in cached and archived pages of the Service, or if other Users or third parties using the Instagram API have copied or saved that information.”

Even if you delete your account (after the Jan 16th 2013) Instagram or other users may still have access to your photos and can therefore use them legally.

6. I want to opt out!! 

“By accessing or using the Instagram website, the Instagram service, or any applications (including mobile applications) made available by Instagram (together, the “Service”), however accessed, you agree to be bound by these terms of use.”

Unfortunately, the only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to delete your account. If you log into Instagram for any reason you agree to all of the rules contained within the terms of service. 

Many tech commentators say that the move could alienate users and affect the reputation of both Instagram and Facebook. Richard Holway, chairman of TechMarketView, said: "Every time Facebook has altered their privacy policy it has led to a backlash and they've been forced to retreat. They tamper with people's privacy at a cost. People are very upset."

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, research director at 451 Research, added: "It's a barefaced tactic that Facebook and Instagram have taken, and one that will likely meet with many challenges, legally and ethically. The fact is that Facebook has critical mass, and is quite confident that such moves may cause uproar, but not a flight of business." 

"Larger firms like Facebook are essentially trailblazing before specific regulations can catch up with them, and as we have seen with Google in the past, regulations and laws have limited real impact on their business operations - so they tend to move forward regardless of opposition."

Instagram have responded to the changes on its company blog, saying that “nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.” The photo-sharing app has defended its new terms by saying that the changes are being made chiefly to help the company tackle spam: "Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow." the company said.

What do you think? Will you be upping sticks and moving to Flickr or do you think that it was only a matter of time before the move happened and don't mind if your pics are used without your consent?

Post written by Content & Community Manager Steven Owens

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.