Instagram denies it planned to sell users' photos to third parties

Time for change
21 Dec, 2012

Photo-sharing site claims new terms of service may have been misunderstood by users.

Photo-sharing site Instagram claims the content of its new terms of use document has been misinterpreted, and that it never intended to sell on its users’ pictures.

The site, which was acquired by Facebook several months ago for $1 billion, incurred the wrath of users earlier this week when it took the wraps off its new terms of service, which were set to come into force on 16 January.

There was confusion and concern about what our advertising products could look like and how they would work.

The document stressed the site would not claim any ownership rights over the content users post. But, in parts, seemed to suggest Instagram could let third parties use their pictures without compensating them.

“You hereby grant 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,” the original document stated.

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos and/or actions you take...without any compensation to you,” it added.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom has used a blog post to counter its users’ concerns by claiming the firm never intended to sell their pictures.

“In the days since [we published the new terms of use], it became clear that we communicate our intentions clearly,” he wrote.

“The concerns we heard about from you most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your products.

“There was confusion and a real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work,” he added.

As a result, Systrom said the firm is planning to reinstate the advertising section from the original version of its terms of service, which has been in use since October 2010.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, 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,” he added.

The company is still planning to introduce a revamped privacy policy and terms of use next month, he added, which will come into force on 19 January 2013.

“I’m proud Instagram has a community that feels so strongly about a product we all love. I’m even more proud that you feel empowered to be vocal and approach us with constructive feedback to help us build a better product,” Systrom concluded.

In a statement to IT Pro, Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said Instagram and its lawyers are the ones to blame for the any "misunderstanding" that may have occurred.

"The company still hasn't said categorically that it will not re-use people's photos for advertising or collecting personal information," he said.

"So this desperate attempt to salvage some of its reputation will fall on deaf ears with consumers who are clearly growing increasingly concerned about their privacy and wider rights online," he added.