Instagram under fire over sale of photos to advertisers

Photo-sharing social network Instagram has come under fire for new terms of service which allow it to sell people’s own photos to advertisers, without paying them.

As well as giving itself the right to sell people’s pics, the terms mean users will receive no payment and no notification about what is happening to their images.

This could mean that the pictures a user shared about a holiday or a resort hotel could be used by that company to build an advertising campaign and the creator of that content would not be entitled to any commission or royalty fees.

And anyone unhappy with the changes will have no option but to close their accounts with Instagram.

Tech website BuzzFeed said: “There’s an adage that’s basically a cliche in tech now: if you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

“Well, there’s a reason that it’s become cliche, and that’s because it’s true — over and over and over again.”

Twitter users expressed outrage. “Goodbye Instagram. Your new terms of service are totally stupid. Good luck playing with the big boys,” said one.

The new terms of use — a legally binding document which is “agreed” to by all users of the site — allow Instagram to use photographs in advertising, without warning users.

“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,” says the document.

Instagram is facing increased competition from the relaunched Flickr app, which adds photo-filters, and allows users to share pictures via either Twitter or Facebook.

The technology blog Techcrunch said, “This approach can win. I predict this approach will win.”

Twitter also unveiled photo filters, similar to the ones offered by Instagram, in a move which was seen as retaliation for Instagram’s decision to block its files being shared within Tweets.

Earlier this month, Instagram photos stopped being visible on Twitter’s site, linking back to Instagram’s instead.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, said: “We believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives.”

Instagram, which has 100m users, was acquired by Facebook for $1bn (€756m) last year.

On Monday the world’s tech media reported that Instagram had updated its privacy policy to make it easier for the site to share its data with Facebook, its parent company.

The announcement was accompanied by a blog post that stressed: “Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them... Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.”

However, 24 hours later, many industry experts and media lawyers alike were beginning to question the veracity of those claims, as are numerous Google+ and Twitter users, having gone through the updated policy — due to come into effect on Jan 16 — with a fine-tooth comb.


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