Photo-filter app Instagram to sell off user images

Instagram: following in the footsteps of Facebook with privacy changes
Instagram: following in the footsteps of Facebook with privacy changes
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THE FACEBOOK-owned photo-sharing app Instagram is to start selling users’ images to third parties for advertising without notification.

Instagram’s 100 million or so users have until January 16 to delete their account, after which they will not be able to opt out. The decision also means that Instagram is able to share users’ information with its parent company Facebook, as well as other associates and advertisers.

This change in policy comes after Facebook’s record acquisition of the app in April of this year for around £616 million, and follows comments made earlier this month by the social networking site’s vice-president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson who said: “Eventually we’ll figure out a way to monetise Instagram.”

A notice posted on the Instagram site contained details of the updated terms of use: “We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organisations that help us provide the service to you... [and] third-party advertising partners.

“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Instagram defended the move, claiming that its aim was to make the app work more effectively with Facebook. Users are currently able to share photos from the Instagram app on a number of social networking sites including Twitter and Facebook.

The company added that the changes would enable them to ‘fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.’

The statement stressed that the updated policy will not alter how Instagram handles photo ownership, or who is able to see a user’s pictures.

However, the new policy has sparked a backlash amongst the app’s users, with some tweeting their opposition to the decision and threatening to quit. One user, @tyhatch, commented:

“Seriously thinking about quitting Instagram as a result of their new TOS (Terms of Service). Sad really.”

However, others showed support for the decision, with @zephoria, tweeting: “I have to admit that I’m loving the #instagram backlash. Fingers crossed that it results in users better understanding their rights.”

Facebook has courted controversy in the past for changing its privacy policy on numerous occasions, but as one user pointed out on Twitter, Instagram’s new Terms of Service are not vastly different from those of Facebook and Twitter.

Analysts have suggested that users who upload DSLR photos - that is, pictures taken with an actual camera and not a mobile device - are more at risk of being targeted than others.

Chairman of TechMarketView Richard Holway warned: “Every time Facebook has altered their privacy policy it has led to a backlash and they’ve been forced to retreat. They tamper with people’s privacy at a cost.”

Alan Pelz-Sharpe of 451 Research added: “It’s a barefaced tactic that Facebook and Instagram have taken, and one that will likely meet with many challenges, legally and ethically.”

Whether Instagram will, like Facebook, be forced into a climbdown over the latest updates to their privacy policy remains to be seen - but with Twitter’s photo-sharing capabilities improving all the time, and a host of other photo-editing software available to download, those desperate for a vintage fix won’t be short of lo-fi options.