Instagram Retreats Back to Old Policies

The Instagram saga—or tempest in a teapot, for everyone who doesn’t use photo-sharing services—continues to roll on its merry way. Days after rolling out a revised Terms of Use that upset users over its advertising policies, Instagram has decided to revert to its old legalese.

“Earlier this week, we introduced a set of updates to our privacy policy and terms of service to help our users better understand our service,” Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder, wrote in a Dec. 20 blog posting. “In the days since, it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities—to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.”

Part of “making it right” apparently means reverting the advertising section of Instagram’s Terms of Use. “Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed,” Systrom added, “we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

For those who missed the story earlier this week, Instagram’s revamped Terms of Use included this rather controversial provision:

“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.”

Many users took that clause to mean Instagram could now sell user photos to the highest bidder—something that the Facebook subsidiary, during the subsequent controversy, did its utter best to dispel. The reverted terms read as follows:

“Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

Followed by this subclause:

“Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.”

As argued by some publications, however, the original terms were arguably more detrimental to users.

“The proposed tweaks made it very clear that advertisers, for example, couldn’t just stick their logo on one of your photos and use it as an Instagram ad,” Bryan Bishop wrote in a Dec. 20 posting on The Verge. “The language the company’s going back to is so broad that such use isn’t out of the realm of possibility—and in that sense today’s development is actually a loss for users.”

The question is whether, by reverting to the old policies, Instagram can stop angry fans from leaving the service.

 

Image: Instagram

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