Instagram is rolling out an update of its terms of service that gives it more control over users’ photos. The changes have unleashed a storm of criticism on various social networks.
The new policies are privacy measures that will help Instagram integrate more easily with its parent company, Facebook. The terms will also allow the site to more effectively crack down on site violations such as spam, Instagram said.
Under the new terms, Instagram can share user information, including location data, information from cookies or device identifiers, with affiliate businesses, including Facebook.
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It can also use photos taken and posted to the site, along with the likeness and user name of that person, in advertisements without compensation. This regulation could potentially affect even those without an Instagram account, since a user could capture their child or a friend, for instance, without their knowledge.
There is no way to opt out of the new terms, even for those under the age of 18. Instagram stipulates that children under 13 are not allowed to use its service, but the new regulations require that a user between ages 13 and 17 have a parent or guardian agree to the terms. Users who don’t want to accept the policies would have to delete their account.
The changes take effect Jan. 16, and will not apply to photos posted before then.
Instagram did not respond to our request for further details.
The new set of regulations might anger privacy rights advocates. Given the current digital age and the company’s Facebook ownership, however, the updated policy shouldn’t come as a surprise, said attorney Gordon Firemark.
The policies do differ in one way from Facebook, though, said Marc Roth, partner in the advertising, marketing and media division of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Some of the more controversial privacy settings can be changed on Facebook to allow users to opt out, but Instagram did not make that an option with this update.
“What is surprising is not allowing users to opt out, as is Facebook’s policy,” he told TechNewsWorld. “But in the end, it’s Instagram’s sandbox, and users that want to play there must either accept those rules or leave.”
Like It or Leave It
It is that sentiment — like it or leave it — that can strike a nerve with privacy or consumer advocates but is ultimately how Facebook or Instagram can get away with these changes, Firemark told TechNewsWorld.
“Facebook provides its services — and now Instagram — to users for free, and it makes its money serving ads to those users, sometimes, very carefully targeted and eerily relevant ads,” he pointed out. “The price of a free service like Facebook or Instagram is some of your privacy. If users don’t like it, they’re free to vote with their feet. They can certainly stop using the service. Nobody’s forcing anyone to post photos on Instagram or Facbeook, after all.”
That type of mass exodus seems unlikely at this point, since consumers are more likely to grumble about the changes rather than get up and walk away, said David Card, vice president of research at GigaOm Pro. When it comes to situations like this one, however, Instagram is likely to take a page out of its parent company’s book – instigating controversial change, then backing down if need be, he noted.
“Pundits, privacy advocates, and, occasionally, legislators, care a whole lot more about these issues than average Americans do,” Card told TechNewsWorld. “But I expect Instagram will be paying pretty close attention to Facebook posts — from consumers, not advocates — on its new terms. If it has to react quickly, if there is significant account deleting, Instagram will adjust its policies.”
That could be the case, said Roth. The more likely outcome, though, is consumers forget their initial outrage at the new terms and Facebook starts seeing a greater return on its $1 billion investment.
“Given the hefty price tag paid for Instagram, Facebook is under pressure to monetize this new asset,” he noted.