Amid uproar, Instagram says it will not sell users' photos

Instagram admitted that its new privacy policy and terms of service were 'confusing'

Instagram vowed on Tuesday to revise new proposed terms of service following a strong backlash from users worried that it would use their photos in advertisements without their permission.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing and editing service introduced a new privacy policy and terms of service on Monday. The terms of service, due to take effect on Jan. 16, appear to give Instagram the leeway to sell advertisements that incorporate a person's username, likeness and photos, among other things.

The new terms of service, published on Monday for public review, caused an immediate uproar from users, many of whom publicly said they would quit Instagram. The conflict highlighted ongoing concerns over how social-networking companies handle their users' personal data. Facebook, which has frequently faced privacy-related criticisms, announced in April that it would acquire Instagram for US$1 billion in cash and stock.

Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, wrote on Instagram's blog that the company had intended "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," Systrom wrote. "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."

Systrom wrote that Instagram has no intention of using photos within advertisements. "We do not have plans for anything like this, and because of that, we're going to remove the language that raised the question."

He reasserted that Instagram's users own their content and the company does not claim ownership rights over photos. Users may still shield their photos from public view by setting the content to "private," which only allows viewing by approved followers, he wrote.

"We need to be clear about the changes we make -- this is our responsibility to you," Systrom wrote.

Systrom wrote that Instagram does envision meshing the service's users with brands. "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," Systrom wrote.

Instagram's owner, Facebook, faced fierce criticism in 2011 when it introduced the "Sponsored Stories" feature, which showed a user's profile photo near an advertisement if the user had "liked" the brand. Facebook did not ask for users' consent.

Following the Sponsored Stories debacle, Facebook was hit with a class-action suit brought on behalf of 125 million[m] users, which it chose to settle. The estimated $20 million settlement, which has been preliminarily approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is scheduled for another court evaluation called a fairness hearing in June.

Send news tips and comments to Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesInstagramsecuritysocial networkingsocial mediainternetprivacyFacebook

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place