Instagram’s new rules

Fri 28 December 2012 10:00, Tamara Yadvichuk

Instagram’s new rules

You have probably heard about the changes in the policy of the popular photo sharing app Instagram. Lots of concerns have been expressed, and the unsettling words “Instagram will sell your photos” have been heard all over the internet for the last week. So let’s clarify what the changes in Instagram policy actually mean for its users.

The updated Terms of Use of Instagram, which will come into effect on January 19th, mention a few intriguing subjects, for example that while your pictures remain your property, you grant a “non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post” to Instagram.

In essence this means that Instagram can do whatever they want with the content you share, including providing other parties with the right to use it. This particular idea brought about the belief that Instagram will now start selling users’ photos to advertisers who will then use them for their purposes without acknowledging, not to mention paying to the people who took them.

And this, of course, resulted in a PR crisis for Instagram who had to come forward with some explanation (which came in the form of a blog post by Instagram co-founder). National Geographic even posted the following on their popular account:


Soon after that, however, @NatGeo announced that they have returned and thanked the public for raising their voices and Instagram for listening.


In the clarification post, Instagram illuminated some of the main issues of public concern. Long story short:

  • Instagram does not claim ownership of the users’ photos
  • Instagram does not intend to sell users’ photos
  • Personal data of users such as their profile pictures and accounts they follow can be used to promote featured content

Despite this kind-hearted explanation, concerns remain. Reuters say that the blog post by Instagram CEO failed to address a few important matters: first, the fact that Instagram users who do not agree with the new rules will have one month to delete their accounts, otherwise they will be bound by the terms of use; and second, that “if a child under the age of 18 uses the service, then it is implied that his or her parent has tacitly agreed to Instagram's terms”.

Instagram is an app built around sharing, and, since it is a social media service offered for free, it is understandable that at some point they will start using your data for advertising purposes in order to make money. Besides that, it is important to remember that any picture you have shared online can be ‘right-clicked’ and ‘saved-as’ by anyone who can view it, and from that point on it is up to them to decide to obey or ignore all the related privacy and copyright laws. If you want to make sure that nobody uses your picture without your consent, perhaps sharing it on the web is not the best idea in the first place.

Merry Christmas everyone, enjoy the rest of the holidays and take lots of Christmas pictures, whether you want to share them or keep them to yourself ;) 

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