Instagram, the popular free photo-sharing application for smartphones owned by Facebook, on Thursday night caved into an outcry from some prominent users over changes to the app’s terms of service, reverting to its previous legal language regarding advertising.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom apologized for failing “to communicate our intentions clearly,” and announced the company’s return to its previous language in a post on the official Instagram blog:
“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here.”
Starting Monday, after Instagram introduced new terms that would enable it to repurpose user photos and content for advertising, the company saw a wave of complaints and user threats to delete their accounts, with many users posting photos of farewell messages to the app.
The specific new power Instagram granted itself that caused the outcry read:
“Some or all of the Service [Instagram] 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.”
Users were concerned that they could have their photos “sold” or repurposed for advertisements for products, services and companies they didn’t necessarily endorse. Now Instagram will move onward using the older, original language that was used when the app launched in October 2010:
“Some of the Instagram Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.”
Further, if not deviating from the older advertising terms, Instagram is at least adding to them, including the following statement that indicates it will try to stealthily pass off advertising sandwiched in between user content: “You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”
Systrom also promised that if at any point in the future Instagram decides to make any other changes to its advertising terms, the company would first specify its plans to users:
“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”
On Friday, the company also announced an update to its app to include expanded support for 25 languages around the globe. It also added a new multicolored photo filter, joining the lineup of 13 other filters that users are fond of applying to their photos to emulate old Kodak Instamatic technology and other vintage cameras.
Interestingly, Instagram’s Friday blog post noted, almost as an afterthought, that the new update for Apple iOS devices (the iPhone and iPad), Instagram 3.4.1, also fixes a bug in the privacy settings of the previous iOS version, Instagram 3.4, apparently a separate issue from the advertising terms change controversy that erupted earlier in the week.