Instagram Responds to Outrage Over Policy Changes

NEW YORK | Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 8:51pm EDT

Instagram responded to user outcry Tuesday over the company’s updated terms of service, clarifying that it does not intend to sell a user’s photos and that users still retain all rights to their content, in an update to the terms of service originally released by the company on Monday morning.

Instagram Responds to Outrage Over Policy Changes 01

Instagram responded to user complaints over the update to its privacy policy on Monday. It explained that it does not intend to sell user photos, and that users can still set their photos to private to maintain privacy controls. Photo: Jason Howie/Flickr

Faced with a loud and angry backlash from some of its most active users, photo-sharing app Instagram backtracked Tuesday on new language that appeared to give the company ownership of their images.

Instagram released an updated version of its privacy policy and terms of service on Monday, and they include lengthy stipulations on how photographs uploaded by users may be .

Even though, the company has heard the mass outrage (including the celebrities’) in response to its new terms of service, and says it will clear things up.

The new policies, which now apply to users as young as 13, enable Instagram, a photo-sharing service that Facebook bought in August, to use members’ names, text, photos and other content with marketing messages, the company said on its site. The new terms of use, set to take effect next month, could be exploitative, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy.

On Tuesday evening, the complaints, which included angry Twitter posts and images on Instagram protesting the changes, prompted action. In response Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wrote this afternoon in a blog post.

Systrom said that he and the company are “listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion. As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”

According to Mashable, the overall tone of the blog post is one of clarification, rather than retraction. Systrom does apologize that the language wasn’t clear enough.

“Legal documents are easy to misinterpret,” Systrom writes at the outset. “Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram.

However it is the language that upsets some of the app’s more than 100 million users said that “a business or other entity may pay” Instagram for the use of user images and may do so “without any compensation to you.”

The NY Times writes, when Facebook announced the changes on Monday, it provided few details about how it would integrate advertisements and photos, other than to say that when the changes took effect on Jan. 16 they would not affect any photographs uploaded to the service before then.

A popular Twitter feed associated with the hacker collective Anonymous was urging its more than 780,000 followers to dump the app Tuesday morning.

“Only way to opt out of @instagram selling your photos is deleting your account,” wrote the person who runs the account. “Sounds good to us. #BoycottInstagram”.

The company also risks scaring off skittish brands and advertisers who would not want to anger Facebook or Instagram users who disagree with how their images are used.

Actually for such operators of services like Instaport.Me and Instabackup, which let people create copies of their Instagram photos, it is a good thing. They  said they were seeing higher-than-average volume.

Many users are considering returning to the former king of photo-sharing services – Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo. Flickr had just released a new application for the iPhone that has drawn considerable praise from users.

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