It’s a tale as old as time. An independent tech company develops a revolutionary new social sharing application. Then, a much larger faceless tech company sees huge advertising potential and snaps up the indie company to the tune of many millions of dollars.
In case you couldn’t guess how the rest of the story goes, the faceless company implements several advertising initiatives at the expense of everything that made the original application great. Everyone collectively flips out, the internet explodes, and a lot of blog posts featuring the letters “WTF” are born. Most of the time, the changes aren’t that catastrophic; sometimes they are (cough MySpace cough). Usually, the end result is somewhere in the middle. Some changes are made, but nothing so much that anyone cares about or even notices.
Popular photo-sharing site Instagram, after being purchased by Facebook, became one such company to fall under the internet’s unflinching magnifying glass. For those of you who predicted the site and application’s demise at the hands of Mark Zuckerberg, your day in the sun is nigh.
Instagram updated their terms of service over the weekend, and under Facebook’s iron rule, things aren’t looking great. There’s your typical “No boobs” and “Must be 13” terms, but surprisingly, the photo-sharing site slipped this little number in:
“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.”
Essentially, Instagram’s new terms of service works similarly to Facebook’s, with one catch. In so many words, Instagram is saying that your metadata will be sold to advertisers to help bring your “related” ads. It’s similar searching for bikes on Google then seeing dozens of bike-related ads in the following weeks. It’s all done through your metadata, which includes your search queries, who you follow, and what you talk about.
If you’ve been using Facebook or Google for a while, you should be used to all of this nonsense by now. However, the big catch in Instagram’s case is this section:
“you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos”
What’s interesting here is that due to the fact that all Instagram photos are uploaded using the application, the photo-sharing site has the ability to sell off your pictures. The moment you upload anything to Instagram it doesn’t belong to you. Instagram makes it clear that they don’t own the photos either, but they will sell them to advertisers.
It’s a despicable move Instagram is making here, but before outraged users march on Washington, remember that this is a completely free site and application. Facebook has been selling our data for years now, and the site doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Next time you see a sunset photo you took in a pop-up Viagra ad, don’t be surprised, you uploaded it to Instagram after all.
What are your thoughts on this whole Instagram mess? Let us know in the comments below.