Instagram Claims Rights to User Photos, Including Advertising

Instagram Claims Rights to User Photos, Including Advertising

by Brandy Cross

Users who read the Instagram privacy policy update over the weekend might have received a bit of a shock. The new updates include that the Facebook owned app can sell your photos for advertising purposes, without asking, or even notifying you first. Furthermore, users who don’t delete their Instagram accounts before the new changes take place on January 16th won’t be able to opt out, even if they delete their account after the deadline. But while hype has already been raised around the internet regarding the text, Instagram has already omitted the text from the privacy policy update.


Instagram Purchased by Facebook

Instagram was recently purchased by Facebook for the sum of 1 billion dollars, their largest acquisition to date. The changes are their first modifications to the Instagram policy, and are in fact similar to Facebooks own photo standards that do allow user photos to be used for advertising, although people on Facebook can still opt out of the advertising without deleting their accounts.  The changes to the Instagram policy will take place on January 16th, which is the final deadline for opting out and deleting your Instagram account.

Earlier this year, Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions commented that they hadn’t yet found a way to make money off of Instagram, but were looking into it. “Eventually we’ll figure out a way to monetize Instagram.” And perhaps now they have.

Instagram Privacy Policy Updates

The updates to the Instagram Privacy policy seem quite innocuous. Perhaps relying on the fact that most don’t actually read the updates, Instagram presented their privacy policy update with the notification that users who don’t opt out of the advertising program within the next 30 days will be unable to opt out. Part of Instagram’s privacy policy update reads:

“We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organisations that help us provide the service to you… (and) third-party advertising partners.”

You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service.”

“a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Exactly who these advertising partners are is not yet clear, although most Facebook advertising programs do immediately spring to mind. Users who snap photos of their friends could inadvertently be allowing their photos to be used in web ads, although part of the privacy policy does include a policy that children’s information is neither collected, nor shared. Logically, Instagram photos are low resolution and low quality, meaning they would only be useful for web ads, and probably only for friend to friend or local business ads.


Suicide Note for Instagram?

It was Clayton Cubbit, New York photographer and Instagram user who coined the term ‘Instagram’s Suicide Note’ on his account, but it has quickly caught on around the world. Despite the very recent updates to the Instagram privacy policy, many people are already claiming that the changes are a suicide note for Instagram. With plenty of alternatives to Instagram including Vignette, Hipstamatic, and Lightbox, users who don’t want to participate in the ad sharing program could easily move to another app, without losing anything. In fact, apps such as Lightbox are even currently rated higher than Instagram, making the change that much easier.

Others claim that the new updates will be met with legal issues, as sharing or sale of ad photos without model consent is generally considered to be illegal.

What the future of Instagram will be is not clear. What is clear is that thousands of Instagram users are now thinking about quitting the site, while many more remain oblivious to the privacy threat. Most people believe that when faced with the backlash of lost Instagram users, Facebook will back down on the new policy and produce an amended one, which perhaps allows users to manually opt out, while still keeping their accounts.

What do you think? Are Instagram users willing to allow the app to share their photos with third party advertising? Or would they rather lose the app and keep their privacy? Are you an Instagram user? Let us know what you think in the box below, or contact [email protected] to let Instagram know how you feel.



Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, just posted on his blog. The offending text stating that images would be used by third party sites has been stricken from the new privacy policy and that Instagram will NOT be using photos for ads. At most, they will be used to portray local businesses. Your photos will still be ‘respected’ as works of art.

“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 likes 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.”

Which while altogether different from the original post, Systrom’s blog is a great update, perhaps inspired by the already rapid loss in users.  But yes, Instagram will no longer be using your photos as advertisements, so you can keep your account.


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Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +