Instagram realizes it needs to start making money, decides to do it with your photos and identity

Instagram realizes it needs to start making money, decides to do it with your photos and identity

Instagram, the popular online photo filtering, blurring, and sharing community, has changed its terms of service to allow them to share your data with their new owner, Facebook, its affiliates and advertisers, and use your photographs and identity in advertising without your consent, and without any revenue sharing.

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. 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.

Depending on whose take you read, this is either a profound bait-and-switch and betrayal or an obvious reality of online business that anyone with a brain should have seen coming. And, as usual, it's both. It's the proverbial scorpion given a ride across the river, that stings us and leaves us both to drown, because that is its nature and we knew what it was when we picked it up.

We're human. No matter how much our rational brain hears and understands that we never get something for nothing, our cheapskate brains just can't resist jumping into bed with any online service that promise us some form of like-minded community with a twist. Free-as-in-Google has become a convenient way for us to "pay" with things far less tangible than money, though also sometimes far more valuable -- our time, our attention, our personal information, our location, our privacy, our identity.

Some of us don't care about any of those things, so "free" services are an incredible bargain. Our money stays in our pocket and our data becomes needles and in ever-growing haystack. Others of us care about those things a great deal, so "free" services are prohibitively expensive. We'd rather pay money and stay out of the haystack.

Instagram isn't innocent. They knew they'd have to make money at some point, and whether or not this was always their plan, some form of this had to have always been their plan, just like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others before them, and no doubt others after them. Reckless growth needs to be paid for eventually, and users are the easiest and most valuable product hawk.

We're not innocent either. We knew Instagram would have to make money at some point as well. It's happened to us before with Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others, and we'll no doubt let it happen again. Getting sold just seems like so much better a deal than having to buy.

If the changes in Instagram's terms of service are deal-breakers for you, you can close your account and look into alternatives, though hopefully with eyes open more widely.

If the changes don't bother you, then you can just keep on keeping on, and I look forward to seeing the grainy, color-filtered, tilt-shifted, picture of you, your pet, and your waffles, with your name on it, as part of a Facebook singles ad in my sidebar sometime soon.

(I kid. Not really.)

Source: Instagram

Update 1: How to download your photos from Instagram and delete your account

Update 2: Instagram comments on changes in Terms of Service, they're not selling your photos

Update 3: Flickr: the best alternative to Instagram

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Instagram realizes it needs to start making money, decides to do it with your photos and identity

21 Comments

I'm seriously considering deleting my account after this. I'll give them 1 month to change this policy or I'm gone.

The people I see complaining the most about this are the ones who broadcast their entire lives over the internet. Stop uploading pictures of your kids every time they take a bite of food or do something mildly amusing. Keep it for yourself. I know someone whose instagram feed is nothing but pictures of her son and she has in the past posted her home phone number on a posted picture so a friend can call her. Instagram selling pictures of her son for ads should be the least of her concerns.

i seriously doubt you've done sufficient research in the few hours this story has been out to make any kind of generalizations on the profile of the person who does not like the changes

I work for a social media company, its actually my job to follow stuff like this so I have done a lot of reading this morning. It doesn't require research, this isn't some complicated hypothesis or anything, just an observation based on my experiences and what I'm reading. My Twitter stream of clients and colleagues is overrun with the complaints I've mentioned. I follow (or followed..) many of these people up until today when their accounts were deactivated and they have (or had) in many cases very little content besides pictures of their loved ones and such things that really should be kept private.

In general I would agree for those users who choose to have their accounts be open and not private. That said, many users do have their accounts set to private and limit access of Instagram photos and other social media content to their trusted friends and family who are indeed interested in their posted content. Not everyone is narcissistic as someone stated above. Flooding e-mail accounts with photos is less convenient than viewing them over a service that provides a streamlined mechanism for viewing shared content. Remember, these were the same selling points for these types of services when they were being offered; connecting with friends and family, easily sharing photos and videos, etc. So I don't know that it is fair to simply lump everyone on these networks into the same category because they share pictures of their children when those who are connected to them on the networks want to see them. Likewise, our tune would probably change if our free e-mail service (Google, Windows Live, Yahoo, etc.) decided to do the same and reserved the right to use our transmitted photos for advertisements. Why should photos sent over a free e-mail service be any more immune to photos privately posted on a free social network. In both cases, the services are provided free and we are subject to the TOS. Simply because we personally prefer one over the other does not make it more correct or acceptable. I believe privacy in each case should be respected. But I also understand the reality that these services are not being provided out of the goodness of heart; there is generally always an angle on "free" as we are seeing now.

So if someone takes a photo of YOUR wife or daughter at the beach, uploads to Instagram, and it someday ends up in a porn or herpes medicine advertisement, you'd be ok with that?

According to the new Instagram ToS, you'd have no way to prevent that from happening.

I, for one, am NOT ok with that.

Just checked my Instagram stream. Couple of shots of my seat at Fenway Park, a couple of my Drew Bledsoe Bendaroo, one of my Patriots razor handle, one of some anti-Monkey Butt powder, and a bunch of my Elf on a Shelf. Woo Hoo.

Thought I did just make them all as private. Isn't that the way around this?

I would much rather have the service be an optional paid subscription. Paid subscriptions would provide an ad-free experience with the ability to opt-out of the use of one's likeness or photos; while the free experience would provide the service free of charge on the condition of providing Instagram with a royalty-free license on your content for advertising. At least this would not force users down a particular path and provide some sort of control over content. That said, long-term analysis would most likely prove subscriptions would be less profitable than the sell of information. At the end of the day business is business and Instagram / Facebook, be they social networks, are businesses that have shareholders to consider.

I think what the big hoopla and the people saying they are going to delete their pictures and accounts prove is that most of society is so superficial. It's this instant thought that your pictures are so good that they must be used in advertising. If instagram wants to use my pictures go ahead, it comes from knowing that once my pictures are out on the internet anyone can see them. So I only post pictures that can be out there any that are personal I either keep on my hard drive or I share it with family and friends using services where I can set restrictions. I'm not saying that this shouldn't be looked at and debated but this instant huff that was created it's like calm down people it's not December 21st yet lol.

Never done Facebook, Never will
Dropped Instagram when first word of facebook snaching them up.

Enjoy your lack of privacy you all profess to want but give away to any and all to see

Crying won't stop it or fix it later, you are all doomed

Re: Instagram, the popular online photo filtering, blurring, and sharing community, ..."

LOL. Instagram filters make your photos look like Crate & Barrel catalog shots.

Re: "... has changed its terms of service to allow them to share your data with their new owner, Facebook, its affiliates and advertisers, and use your photographs"

Wow. That's almost Google-Creepy.