Outrage over Instagram selling user photos

23:31, Dec 18 2012
Kevin Systrom
NEW POLICY: Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom.

Instagram has responded to a backlash over its new user terms and says it will not sell users' photographs.

The popular online photography app, owned by Facebook, published new privacy conditions and user terms on Tuesday, sparking a furore among some users who vowed to close their accounts.

The new terms appeared to suggest Instagram had granted itself permission to start using users' photographs in adverts royalty-free.

The paragraph of the new rules that caused most controversy read: "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."

The new policy will take effect January 16.

But Instagram sought to clarify its intentions on Wednesday, saying it will not sell users' photos.


"Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote on the Instagram blog.

"Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation.

"This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing.

"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Instagram also rejected claims user photographs would be used in adverts.

"We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we're going to remove the language that raised the question," it added.

The company suggested its real aim in updating the user terms was to allow individual users and companies to pay to 'promote' their content, in the same way that's currently allowed on Facebook and Twitter.

"We envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following," it added.

Instagram first announced the changes in a blog post, but didn't explain its intentions.

It said a concurrent change to the privacy policy, a separate document, would help Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook.

Twitter users vowed to cancel their Instagram accounts in response to the policy change, complaining that the new terms would essentially let the service sell people's photos for ads.

The storm of outrage included celebrities and some of Instagram's biggest users.

Singer Pink was among the first to take note. In a post on Twitter, she wrote, "I WILL BE  QUITTING INSTAGRAM TODAY. WHAT A BUMMER. YOU SHOULD ALL READ THEIR  NEW RULES."


* April 3: Instagram, a photo-sharing social network accessed on smartphones, arrives on Android devices after starting out as an app available only on Apple gadgets such as the iPhone

* April 9: Facebook Inc announces plans to buy Instagram for US$1 billion in cash and stock

* May 18: Facebook's stock begins trading publicly. After a small increase on its first day, the stock price tumbles amid concerns about the company's ability to keep growing revenue

* August 22: Federal government clears Instagram deal. Because of Facebook's falling stock price, the US$1 billion cash-and-stock deal drops to about US$750 million

* August 31: Facebook closes on its Instagram deal, which by then is worth about US$715 million - US$300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock

* November 5: Instagram expands to the web, though in limited form. Previously, users' profiles existed only on Instagram's mobile applications. With the change, users have a website with a profile photo, bio and a selection of the snapshots they've recently shared on Instagram, though they can't follow other users or upload photos

* Monday: Instagram announces new terms of service and privacy policy to take effect January 16. Users and privacy advocates complain over Instagram's new assertion that it may now receive payments from businesses to use your photos, user name and other data "in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you".