Instagram Apologizes After Privacy Backlash
December 19, 2012

All Apologies, Instagram CEO Apologizes For Terms Of Service Misunderstanding

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Photo-sharing service Instagram apologized on Tuesday for any ℠confusion´ about whether it would sell photos posted by users, or incorporate them into advertisements, emphasizing that it has ℠no plans´ to do so.

The remarks followed an unprecedented backlash by users over new privacy policies the company unveiled on Monday.

Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom said users had incorrectly interpreted the revised terms of service to mean that user photos would be sold to others without compensation.

“This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing,” Systrom wrote in a blog post Tuesday afternoon.

“To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

"Since making these changes, we've heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean," he wrote.

Indeed, the now-abandoned language was unprecedented among photo-sharing services, claiming the perpetual right to license users' pictures to any organization, including for advertising purposes. The policy would effectively have made Instagram, which has some 100 million members, the largest stock photo agency in the world.

The company was acquired by Facebook earlier this year in $715 million deal that closed in September.

Google, which owns Instagram rival Snapseed, does not sell photos uploaded through Picasa or Google+.

"The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our services,” the policy reads.

A Google spokesman told CNET that Google+ and other services protect the privacy rights of its members.

"As our terms of service make clear, 'what belongs to you stays yours.' You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Some of our services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In addition, on Google+ you can export your photos and other data whenever you'd like,” a Google spokesman said during an interview with CNET on Tuesday.

Systrom said Instagram may, in certain circumstances, display users´ profile pictures, along with any information about who they follow, as part of an advertisement. This marketing technique resembles Facebook´s “sponsored stories” ads.

“We envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following,” Systrom wrote.

“Let´s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce – like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo – might show up if you are following this business.”

However, the company will not incorporate users´ uploaded photos as ads, because it wants to “avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience."