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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Instagram Creates Insta-Controversy; Internet Revolts

    Posted by Robert Coles

    New Privacy Policies Aren’t What They Seem


    The Instagram controversy that made us all forget about the impending doom of the Mayan Apocalypse may not have been all that big of a deal. With a significant percentage of social media users in complete upheaval about the photo-filter social media network claiming to have the right to our photos of breakfast pastries and puppies, Instagram has taken note of the lack of approval and retracted their updated policy. Well done, Internet users. Instagram’s actions are proof that if you make enough stink, you’ll get your way!

    What did the policy specifically say?

    “You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.”

    The Internet went crazy over the wording of the new terms of service, but many didn’t actually understand why. Most assumed that, like Facebook, Instagram would be able to sell its photos to companies to use for advertisements, and they were right to assume this. But Instagram isn’t much different from any other social media site. Every other company on the Internet that stores its users’ data has similar, if not the same, privacy policies in place. In fact, over 1 billion people agreed to these terms and services when signing up for their Facebook accounts. 

    But did this controversial rewording really matter?

    No. In fact, when you first signed up for Instagram way back in the day, you agreed to these terms of use. So what’s changed? Nothing really. Now they’re just being more upfront about it. If you remember, back in 2010, Facebook went through its own little privacy controversy by updating its Rights and Responsibilities in which the company announced that it now had the right to sell any photos to anyone that wanted them, unless you took control of your own security settings. Facebook owns Instagram. They bought it for a shocking $1 billion.

    The policy actually aimed to make things a little more clear, though the resulting confusion indicated that this attempt failed. The policy took out all of the “if, then, like, such as, and wherefore to” language and actually boiled it down to “Someone can purchase your photo, and use it.” Now, this policy has its limitations. They can’t edit your photo. They can’t change anything about it. They can’t add in their own caption about what’s going on in the photo and they can’t add wording to it.

    The Good News

    So you’ll never find yourself in situation where you’re driving down the interstate minding your own business when suddenly the photo you took of yourself doing the ever-popular, yet highly unattractive “duck face” is splashed up on a billboard as an advertisement for bad Botox injections.

    A company can, however, use your geographical location to determine which ads would be best to show you while using their app.

    It’s important to remember that Instagram is not a non-profit agency. They have to make their money somehow. And with a $1 billion debt to pay off, Facebook is looking for the best way to capitalize on their biggest purchase to date. The sale of user photos just might help with that, but again, users have known about it from the start. A company, we’ll use Applebee’s, for example, can take any photos taken at any of their restaurants, and post them to their various social media sites with captions like “The best view at the such-and-such Applebee’s!”

    Does any of this seem familiar?

    It should, because Facebook has been doing this for years. Their advertisement processes are essentially the same. Ever seen a sponsored ad with text that your friend actually wrote? If you love The Big Bang Theory, and post anything about it, the studio and network can pay to have that promoted across your friends’ timelines.

    So if my photos aren’t going to be altered, and Instagram has basically had these policies all along, what’s the controversy?

    Who knows? One thing is for sure though, and that is that Instagram didn’t do a great job explaining to the public what the changes actually meant. That’s something they’re working on right now actually: they’ve recently released a statement that they are going to reword their new terms of service and have clarified that they don’t plan to sell your actual photos. They’ve decided to remove that language from their new and updated terms of service.

    Your photos of pancakes and Christmas lights are safe, for now. After the outrage that poured out of fans threatening to delete their accounts, Instagram and it's owner Facebook have decided there are better ways to go about this and we’ll look forward to hearing the new terms of service in the coming weeks.

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    image credit: artur84/freedigitalphotos.net

    Topics: Social Media