Instagram Backpedaling on New Privacy Rules to Quiet Angry Mob

Instagram sent users into a tizzy yesterday after the company said it would update its terms and privacy policy on Jan. 16.

InstagramChalk it up to a slow news day and a super social fan base, but within hours after releasing the new terms, the outrage prompted Instagram to respond.

Lots of the concern has to do with whether the photo-sharing app, owned by Facebook, was going to give advertisers the right to use photos in advertisements.

But mostly, it sounds like there’s been a lot of confusion over interpreting the legalese. In other words, blame the lawyers for writing something that is too difficult for hobbyist photographers to understand.

“I’m writing this today to let you know we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion,” said Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, in a blog post. “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.”

Many of the tweets from users were calling for users to delete their accounts, which is likely what Systrom is trying to prevent from escalating any further. For instance, here are two that I saw:


In the blog post, Systrom addresses three main sticking points: advertising, ownership rights and privacy settings.

On the issue of selling users’ photos, he declares: “To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.” But what about the photos appearing in advertisements? Nope, nothing like that either: “We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”

For more information on the individual bullet points, read the blog post, but in short, the company says it still has 30 days to get this right, and it welcomes the feedback. That’s another way of saying we messed up and we know it.

“One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns,” he said. “You’ve done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve.”

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— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus