Instagram responds: We’re not selling your photos

After more than a day of online outrage and deleted accounts, the photo-sharing service piped up with a response Tuesday, offering potential changes to its controversial new terms of use.

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Instagram posted its new terms of use mid-day on Monday. By mid-afternoon, observers and news sites were posting about the widespread panic those new terms caused, particularly the clause that seemed to indicate that the free photo-sharing service, which Facebook acquired for $1 billion in April, could, without having to ask, place users’ photos in ads.

Instagram stayed quiet for more than 24 hours as some high-profile users encouraged followers to delete their accounts. The company spoke up with a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening” Tuesday afternoon.

“As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos,” the post, written by Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, states.

The post also goes on to address what Systrom calls confusion about what the terms really mean. He says the terms were intended to inform users that “we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram.”

“Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation,” Systrom wrote. “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.”

In addition, Systrom wrote that language that led users to believe their photos would be used for ads has already been removed from the terms. The company had no such plans, he wrote.

Systrom also wrote that Instagram claims no ownership over users’ photos.

Within just half an hour of posting the message to its blog, which runs on Tumblr, Instagram received nearly 1,400 likes and reblogs. That number reached more than 4,500 on Wednesday morning. The reaction in those reblogs was mixed.

Tumblr employee Justin Ouellette asked, “Does it really matter whether Instagram technically ‘owns’ your photos if they claim most of the individual rights usually associated with ownership, such as licensing?” He said the change is a technicality.

Blogger Esau Kessler wrote that the post is a “good start,” but “I need to see the revised TOS before I stop the process of deleting my Instagram account.”

Another Tumblr blogger commented, “Thank you. A company with its users at heart.”

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