Update 2: Instagram has published a new blog post promising that Instagram will not claim ownership of your photos, and hoping to bring some clarity to the new rules of agreement. It’s unclear whether or not the original terms of agreement’s confusion stemmed from corporate lawyer-speak, or that Instagram couldn’t effectively communicate the changes, but the actual terms of agreement are still unchanged. Reviews have been mixed, with people and brands (such as National Geographic) still sticking with their Instagram hiatus.
Update 1: National Geographic has suspended it’s Instagram page, possibly permanently. One of the first brands to publicly leave Instagram over the new terms of agreement, they uploaded an image with the text “@NatGeo is suspending new posts to Instagram. We are very concerned with the direction of the proposed new terms of service and if they remain as presented we may close our account”.
Aside from possibly Pinterest, this year’s greatest success story has undoubtedly belonged to Instagram. Previously an Iphone-only app, Instagram found mass appeal in April after being released on Android devices (which also helped to boost it’s popularity among existing Iphone users). By the summer, it seemed as if all of my friends were joining the site. Every day brought notice of yet another Twitter or Facebook friend joining, and it wasn’t long before brands took full advantage. In a culture that is becoming increasingly more visually oriented, Instagram was a perfect social media avenue for building a brand image. Less than a short week later, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in cash in stock. In just six months, Instagram use had gone from 900,000 people per day to 7.3 million. Just last week, Instagram upgraded it’s app with a host of desirable features, such as cropping and new lens filters.
How fitting, then, that just a few days before the Mayan apocalypse, Instagram is facing its own potential doomsday scenario.
Early this morning, Instagram released its new “Terms of Agreement”, and the reception has been less than stellar. While some of the new terms were reasonable (no pornographic material, users must be of at least 13 years of age), the following statement is what set off a social media firestorm:
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata) on your behalf.…You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.
In effect, Instagram (or Facebook) can sell the images you took to a third party without your consent, knowledge, or any financial restitution to you. To say that people are upset would be an understatement. Within hours, thousands of #boycottinstagram tweets were being fired off, with many users allegedly quitting the service. As the New York Times pointed out,
“The only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to not use the service. If you log into Instagram in any way, including through the website, mobile applications or any other services offered by Instagram, you agree to have your content used in ads.”
Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper weighed in, with the tweet “#Instagram will now be able to use anyone’s photos in ads? Without consent? Come on! Is there another photo app people recommend?”
While there’s no official count of how many users who have left Instagram, it will be interesting to see if brands stick around. While a mass exodus of private users would negate the effectiveness of a company’s message, there is also the issue of a brand not having control over it’s photos. Larger companies, such as Coca-Cola, probably don’t have to worry about having their logo or photos used in another advertisement (and if they were used, it would only be free publicity). Mid-sized to smaller companies, however, have a lot more to lose.
Further complicating the issue is that Instagram is not the only photo sharing site, or photo manipulating app, in town. Twitter recently restricted Instagram connectivity and introduced its own filters for photos. Mobile app Hipstamatic must be enjoying the influx of downloads that it’s seeing today, and a year old Flickr post (originally aimed at Facebook) has been circulated again today proclaiming “At Flickr, your photos are always yours”.
While it’s too early to tell if this public relations disaster will cause long-term damage to Instagram’s success, it’s worth noting that Facebook has bounced back from privacy concerns before. However, for many people, Facebook has been much more of a necessity, and as stated above, there are competitive alternatives to Instagram. How Instagram’s public relations team handles the crisis could be the deciding factor behind where the program goes from here.
What do you think? Have you deleted your Instagram account, or plan to delete it before the changes take place? Should brands leave Instagram as well? Has Instagram sealed its fate, or will this all blow over? Leave your thoughts below!