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.
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.)
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.