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Instagram reverts its terms in response to criticism

In response to widespread criticism, Instagram has reverted its proposed terms of service (TOS) in regards to advertising back to the previous version.

In response to widespread criticism, Instagram has reverted its proposed terms of service (TOS) in regards to advertising back to the previous version.

(Credit: Instagram/CBSi)

Earlier this week, Instagram pushed out an update to its TOS that detailed new ways the Facebook-owned service could use photos and associated metadata for advertising purposes. Many users responded with widespread disdain, threatening to boycott Instagram and delete their accounts.

Some of the key components of the TOS were misinterpreted, particularly those in regards to photo ownership. Instagram's co-founder Kevin Systrom responded to critics by stating that users will, and always have, retained ownership of their photos, and that Instagram had no intentions of selling them.

Today, he has blogged again to outline another update to the TOS: that is, the advertising section of the TOS has reverted to the original version of Instagram's terms, which first appeared in October 2010.

The offending portion of the original update (which was to come into effect on 16 January 2013) read as such:

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.

The update to the updated TOS, coming into effect on 19 January 2013, is identical to the section in the original Instagram TOS and now reads as follows:

Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.

This reversion may not be as big a victory for users as you might first think. The original terms actually have more scope to use content and associated metadata in whichever manner Instagram chooses — as outlined by the last sentence, which says that the form of ads can change at any time, without notice.

Systrom went on to mention the changes to advertising that may occur in the future. He said:

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

Instagram's privacy policy has also been tweaked to reflect the changes. Key to the new privacy policy is the addition of phrases such as "some of the companies we work with" when outlining how information is gathered and used by the service.

Also important to highlight is the following section that has been added to the privacy policy that references advertisers and affiliates:

We may share User Content and your information (including, but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group ("Affiliates"). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates' own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honour the choices you make about who can see your photos.

Time will only tell how users react to these changes. National Geographic, a publication well-known for its iconic imagery, has already stopped posting images to Instagram in protest of the terms.