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December 24, 2012

Instagram Reverting to Old Terms of Use After User Backlash

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom is taking the mantra ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix’ it to heart.

Systrom has said the photo-sharing app is not only going back to its October 2010 terms of use, it has no present plans to roll out any new ad products that would require it to be changed.

“The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos,” Systrom wrote in a blog post. “There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work. “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here.”

Systrom also said the Facebook-owned company in the future would decide what products it wants to offer before changing the terms of use to ensure company lawyers do not draft a policy that gives the firm more latitude than it requires.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work,” he wrote.

Systrom’s move to revert to the former terms of use may convince the majority of the app’s users to continue to use the free service.

The photo-sharing app made the now reversed policy changes last week — set to take effect next month — which users interpreted as giving Instagram the right to sell peoples’ uploaded photos without their permission and without compensation.

“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 altered terms of service read.

Many users threatened to leave the service, believing Instagram would soon have the right to grab users pictures and other data to promote itself on its website or in advertising without mention of or compensation to the owner of the images.

The uproar last week encouraged Systrom to issue a lengthy statement to “answer your questions, fix any mistakes and eliminate the confusion.”

“It was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing,” wrote Systrom. “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.”

The following is an excerpt from Systrom’s blog post addressing the user backlash:

Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate 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. 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. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

 

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