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Business Briefing

Under Pressure, Instagram Reverts to Old Policy

Under Pressure, Instagram Reverts to Old Policy
December 21, 2012 1:54PM

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Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom reiterated a statement in his reply earlier in the week to the controversy, saying that Instagram "has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did." In the future, he added, Instagram is "going to take the time to complete our plans" and then present them with more details for user feedback.

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It was the Week That Was for Instagram. After a tumultuous four days of angry users and bad press, the photo sharing site has announced that it is going back to language in its old user policy.

In a posting Thursday on its corporate blog, co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote that, "because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting" the advertising-related section of the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to "the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010."

In the Future...

In the future, he added, instead of getting permission from users about possible advertising products "we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans" and then present them with more details for user feedback. The implication is that the proposed, and rejected, Privacy Policy and Terms of Use present what-if scenarios without tangible examples.

Systrom also reiterated a statement in his reply earlier in the week to the controversy, saying that the site "has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did." He added that "we don't own your photos -- you do."

On Monday, Instagram had released a new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which were intended to take effect in 30 days. They soon led to a major backlash from users, including angry postings and account cancellations. On Tuesday, Systrom promised to fix the terms in the two documents, saying that "we're listening" and that the language had been misinterpreted "by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation."

Identification of Ads

He said that such an interpretation is "not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing," added that the company "does not claim any ownership rights over your photos," and promised to fix the language.

The Monday documents included a section that said "a business or entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotion, without any compensation to you." It also noted that "paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications" will not always be labeled as such, meaning that users could not tell what was an ad or not. In addition, the policies indicate no way to opt out of these terms, except to cancel one's account.

It's possible that the newest policies, containing some sections with language from the previously existing policy, may still not satisfy users and Instagram-watchers, now that these issues have been raised. For instance, the newest Terms of Use still says that the site "may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such." It also retains the right to place "advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content."

In the spring, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock. In announcing the deal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that Instagram would be allowed an independent identity, but it is clear the photo sharing site is following Facebook's example in monetizing the site -- and, apparently, in alienating its users over badly received privacy and user policies.

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