Insta-scram: Will Instagram’s new terms of use send you running?

Rich kids of Instagram don't care about service terms. Too busy with black cards. via Rich Kids of Instagram
Rich kids on Instagram don’t care about service terms. Too busy with black cards. via Rich Kids of Instagram

So OK, the whole internet is freaking out about Instagram’s new terms of service, so let’s post a dubious legal waiver on Facebook talk about it like reasonable people. Ever since Facebook paid a billion dollars for the photo filter service, we all had to know that they were going to monetize the crap out of it somehow. So that’s how we end up with something like Instagram telling us that they’re going to harvest pictures, containing your likeness or not, for advertising purposes (“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”) and there isn’t anything you can do about it but stop using the service.

Elsewhere, they promise to never tell you when something is an ad unless they feel like it (“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such”) and promise that there will be no wall between them and Facebook (“Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.”)

Of course what’s really disheartening is that apparently you can’t post nude or pornographic images with the service, which cuts off a potential revenue stream for me.

So, are we shocked and appalled by this? Or is everyone just going to shrug it off as another price you pay for free service? My unsolicited opinion is that just because something is free, it doesn’t give the owners carte blanche to your likeness or to ignore the idea that a minor can’t sign a contract anywhere, “implied parental consent” be damned. I’d rather see Instagram try to make money the old fashioned way, by making people pay for it, or the new old-fashioned way, by slapping ads on it, rather than use our casual endorsement of things as actual endorsements. If you’re going to turn us or our work into commercials, well, pay us goddammit. Otherwise you’re admitting your service is basically just a worthless drain on server space.

If you feel the same way, please don’t spam up your friends’ Twitter feeds with your outrage. Just quietly don’t use Instagram, because a lack of fresh content is the only way to actually get their attention. Try Hipstamatic instead. Or even better, do for yourself and learn to play with your phone’s filters.

Follow Dave @HerbertHarper for more photo filter screeds


  1. Conal Darcy

    Their in-house counsel must have been drunk or high on the day they drafted the new T&C. They’ll never hold up. Say you agree to the terms and take a photo of a stranger. When Instragram uses that photo in an advertisement, that stranger would have a plausible lawsuit for compensation.

    • David Colon

      I’m not saying I was asked to do some legal work for Instagram and Facebook last week, but I’m not saying I wasn’t asked to do some legal work for them.

  2. Tim Donnelly

    Breaking news: stuff you’ve been sending out for free on the internet and spamming all over every social network for years may not actually belong to you.

    But really: is this a real privacy debate, or is it a debate over a bunch of people who think filters make them real photographers suddenly feeling their work is compromised?

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