Instagram's Privacy Policy: 10 Reasons Users Must Remain Vigilant

NEWS ANALYSIS: Instagram quickly backtracked after it announced a vague privacy policy that seemed to allow for the sale of user photos, a bad move that threatens users’ relationship with Facebook as well the photo-sharing company.

Instagram is in some hot water over changes the company recently announced to its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Although the photo-sharing company, which was acquired by Facebook for approximately $1 billion, says that its users own their own images, the terms left it open for the service to sell photos.

As one might expect, that discovery was met with fierce criticism from those who didn’t like the idea of any of their photos being sold for Instagram’s gain.

For its part, Instagram has argued that the idea that it would sell photos is nonsense. The company said that it was trying to say that it would use a person’s profile, which is attached to a photo, for use in advertisements. A brand that would want to advertise would show a photo of a person on their page, displaying to that person’s friends that they’re following a particular page.

In the coming days, Instagram plans to update its terms to ensure they more accurately reflect the company’s alleged intentions. However, it’s not immediately clear that the initial belief that it wanted to sell photos is totally outlandish. In fact, it appears that there is more here for users to be worried about than Instagram would have them believe.

Read on to find out why users should pay close attention to Instagram’s privacy policy and terms of service.

1. Terms and privacy policies are changing all the time

Instagram’s kerfuffle underscores a broader issue across the technology industry: privacy policies and terms of service are changing all the time. In far too many cases, the changes negatively impact users with few users actually paying attention to how the changes will affect them. Google changed its privacy policy earlier this year to combine all user information. Like Instagram, the search giant said that the changes help users. However, whether either company is actually helping their users is up for debate.

2. Users are viewed as cash cows

Instagram made one thing clear with its changes: its users are cash cows. The company, which focused mainly on growth since its founding, is now trying to monetize its operation. In its view, the only way to do that is to capitalize on its users and their personal information. It’s rather unfortunate.

3. Facebook owns the company

Let’s not forget that Facebook now owns Instagram: Facebook. The social networking giant bought Instagram earlier this year for $1 billion and now wants to prove to shareholders that it made the right decision. The only way to do that is to deliver higher revenue. And unfortunately, the only way to do that is to leverage its user base. That Facebook is behind all of that can’t be overlooked.

4. It’s hugely popular

Instagram is a massively popular photo-sharing app. At last count, the service had 80 million users. That so many people are affected by this makes the changes matter quite a bit. This is by no means a small company harming a few folks.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...