Instagram Makes Important Changes to Privacy Policy and Terms of Service

Instagram revised its privacy policy and terms of service on Monday, making some significant changes to how user photographs may be leveraged by Instagram and its parent company, Facebook. The changes, effective January 16th, will not affect any pictures shared before that date.

Instagram app

The new terms give insight into how Facebook and Instagram will incorporate advertisements into Instagram’s application.  As detailed in The New York Times, the updated terms and stipulations include:

1. Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook and outside affiliates and advertisers.

This change will allow Facebook’s ad network harness data and information that users share on Instagram, such as favorite places, bands, restaurants or hobbies, to promote targeted advertising. Instagram representatives explained in its company blog that the changes to its privacy policy help Instagram “function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.”

2. You could be featured in an advertisement without your consent. (One of the stickier stipulations…)

The new “Rights” section of the terms of service notes that Instagram may use your photographs and identity in advertisements. The terms specify: “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.” Any photographs uploaded to Instagram could be used in an advertisement on the service or on Facebook.

This stipulation also means, someone who doesn’t use Instagram could also appear in an advertisement if an Instagram user takes their photo and uploads it to the service. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says that using a person’s likeness in ads could infringe on some state laws protecting people’s privacy. According to Rotenberg: “Most states have laws that limit the use of a person’s ‘name or likeness’ for commercial purposes without consent. The legal purpose is to allow people to obtain the commercial value of their images and endorsements, which is a big issue for celebrities and others, but also a reasonable concern for Facebook users whose images are used by Facebook to encourage friends to buy products and services.”

3. Underage users are not exempt from any stipulations.

While Instagram requires that users be at least 13 years old to register for the service, the new terms note that if a teenager signs up, they are acknowledging that a parent or guardian accepts that their image, username and photos can also be used in ads.

4. Ads may not be labeled as paid content.

Company ads will not necessarily be labeled as ads, making regular and sponsored content difficult to distinguish. “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”

5. The only way out is deletion.

If you want to opt out of the new Instagram terms, the only present option is to delete your account. In other words, whenever you log into Instagram through the Web site, mobile applications or Instagram services, you agree to have your content used in ads. Instagram’s new terms of service explain: “by accessing or using the Instagram website, the Instagram service, or any applications (including mobile applications) made available by Instagram (together, the “Service”), however accessed, you agree to be bound by these terms of use.”

Instagram representatives state, “nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.” The company suggests the changes are primarily being implemented to combat spam.

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