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Instagram: we won't sell your images

Responding to a barrage of online complaints about its new terms of service, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom has blogged about what the photo-sharing service will change.

Responding to a barrage of online complaints about its new terms of service (TOS), Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom has blogged about what the photo-sharing service will change.

(Credit: CBSi)

Yesterday, Instagram released an updated version of its TOS, with a number of changes that will come into effect from 16 January 2013. The biggest changes relate to the licensing of user images and metadata for purposes that would generate revenue for Instagram itself. For example, a photo of your morning coffee could be used by the cafe it was bought from to promote the business — without modification — in a similar way to how Facebook's sponsored posts work.

Many users were naturally upset by the new changes, though the most concerning part of the TOS to many was the following statement:

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.

This statement, and subsequent discussions of licensing later on in the agreement, was the subject of much misinterpretation by users. Instagram never explicitly stated that it would sell images, but rather that the user grants Instagram a sub-license to use their photos.

Systrom has posted on the official Instagram blog in response to the critics and in an attempt to clarify the changes. He said that the service will "modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos."

He went on to detail why Instagram needs to make the changes in regards to advertising, and said:

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.

While the offending paragraph in regards to advertising may be removed from the updated TOS, essentially, the blog post only seeks to reinforce Instagram's original position that ads (in whatever form they may take) will come to the service sooner, rather than later.

Finally, Systrom went on to clarify that if your photos are set to private on Instagram, they will remain private and will only appear to the people who follow you.