It’s been interesting lately with Instagram, right? It was barely six months ago that Facebook acquired Instagram, a phone-app that (at the time) had just added Android versions of their service along with the original, well-known iPhone offering. They were relatively quiet after the acquisition for a few months, up until now.

Instagram logo

Instagram logo captured by Instagram.

Instagram Introduces New, New Terms of Service

Last month, we received a component of the service we loved: account pages viewable via web browser. Until then, the app was strictly phone-only. Then last weekend, we learned the reason why Instagram was waiting to unveil more of their new developments.

Facebook/Instagram had been working behind the scenes to optimize…their potential cash-flow.  They announced a new TOS that seemed to suggest that photos on the site could be sold by Instagram for commercial purposes.  Widespread dissatisfaction ensured. Excerpts were posted on the service itself, on the usual tech outlets and have begun to make the rounds on popular blogs in our industry. Here are a few segments of the Instagram (should we call it Facetagram, or Instabook?) TOS users found most offensive include [paraphrased]:

  1. An explicit declaration that while content submitted to the service is owned by the user, content may be appropriated as viable marketplace product for Instagram.
  2. An assertion that users’ content and activity data will be used to target and populate ads directed toward users and said ads would not be marked as such. That’s right, ad-tricking, not tracking.
  3. An offering of recourse: accept the new TOS as stated, or leave Instagram. There is no privacy setting you can set to avoid any of these invasive, monetizing measures.

I encourage you right now, if you are an Instagram user, to read and digest the new Intagram terms of service. For good measure, review the privacy policy as well. After receiving the deafening cries of foul from users and potential users, Instagram’s founder wrote a personal blog post apologizing for “confusing” wording and “legal jargon” contained in the TOS update.

Instagram Is Beginning to Look A Lot Like Pinterest

As users banded together to shout “back off!” at Instagram, the resulting amendments to the updated terms of service struck me as similar to the situation Pinterest faced and addressed earlier this year. Remember the tomfoolery of the Pinterest TOS and privacy policy?

As we all know, the backlash from that policy resulted in an apology to users and a change in the Pinterest terms of services. Recently they progressed on their path to monetization by introducing website verification and designated accounts for business users.

Facebook has a long history of peeling back the curtain on users’ privacy and addressing concerns afterward. It seems the publicly traded organization did not learn from the Pinterest TOS misstep. Instead of gradually adding in the monetization developments along with the enhancing the product for users, the company decided to follow their own development habits with their new acquisition.

TOS Today, Privacy Tomorrow?

This week’s Instagram melee has us all wondering one thing: where is Facebook going with this? Are they going to harvest the Instagram user base as it stands by pushing a full monetization agenda, or are they testing the waters, probing their user base for clues about how much privacy is acceptable to invade?

Tell us your predictions – we’re interested to know.