Instagram facing PR firestorm over policy change

The photo-sharing app says it can now sell its users’ photos, sparking outrage on social media. Instagrammers are allegedly shuttering their accounts by the thousands.


Let’s say you took a photo and posted it to a website for the world to see. Then let’s say that website decides to use that photo in one of its advertisements.

Should you get paid?

That question is the crux of Facebook-owned Instagram’s new privacy policy update, which includes this bit that’s sparked outrage among fans of the photo-sharing app:

“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.”

The new policy takes effect on Jan. 16, 2013.

Although the change will likely affect a scant few, it has angered thousands of Instagram users—fueled in part by heavily retweeted headlines such as this one from CNet: “Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos”—who are allegedly shuttering their accounts by the thousands.

The New York Times captured their indignation in a blog post on Monday, saying:

“The only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to not use the service. If you log into Instagram in any way, including through the website, mobile applications or any other services offered by Instagram, you agree to have your content used in ads.”

Meanwhile, Fox News said the change could spell the end of Instagram.

On its company blog, Instagram tried to soften the blow by assuring users that “nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.” The privacy policy update will simply help Instagram “function more easily as part of Facebook” and protect its users against spam,” the company said.

Twitter users aren’t buying the explanation. The term “#instagram” is among the top trending topics on the site this morning, as tweets pour in encouraging boycotts, offering alternatives, and generally bashing the company’s decision.

This year, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. Recently, the photo-sharing app scuffled with Twitter by preventing Instagram photos from appearing in tweets. Twitter launched its own version of Instagram in response.

In a post for the alternative news websites The Industry, designer and developer Jordan Koschei offered a different viewpoint.

“Social media is not a public utility. Using Instagram is not a right. When you begin using these services, you enter a legally binding contact with them, defined in the Terms of Service …

“When a social media company changes its terms of service, an appropriate response would be to keep using it (if you agree to the terms), to delete your account (if you don’t,), or to express your displeasure by contacting the company (if you really, really don’t). While I’m sure plenty of people are expressing themselves in this way, their voices of reason are drowned out by the contingent, which insists on complaining loudly that the greedy robber barons are infringing on their fundamental human right to use Instagram. Delete your account, and let the rest of us continue on in peace.”

Either way, the chorus of boos directed at Instagram has quickly become a PR problem for the company, which has yet to issue a response.

(Image via)

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