Updated 5:10 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 18
The changes come nearly nine months after Facebook announced it would be acquiring Instagram for an eye-popping sum of then $1 billion in cash and stock. Facebook now counts over 1.01 billion users, while Instagram has over 100 million separately.
A number of prominent Instagram users have since Monday threatened to “quit” Instagram saying they would soon deactivate their accounts in protest of the changes. Some have posted photos of farewell notes to their Instagram accounts, strategically employing the app’s multicolored, faux-vintage filters to convey their frustration or willingness to leave.
“The new terms of service are stupid. If they’re not changed, I will likely cancel this account,” read the start of a note posted to the Instagram account of British novelist and comic book author Warren Ellis.
“Thanks to the crappy new Instagram TOS and the crappy app update going to stop using this app soon,” read the beginning of a note posted on the Instagram account of Sean Bonner, a journalist and designer.
These and other users said they’d be continuing to post photos on Flickr, the photo-hosting website owned by Yahoo, which recently released a new, well-reviewed application for the iPhone that contains colored photo filters as well.
Defecting Instagram users on Tuesday also took to social media to pass around a link to an older Flickr blog post from 2011 in which the company stated:
“We feel very strongly that sharing online shouldn’t mean giving up rights to your photos…In fact, when you upload to Flickr you set the kind of license that you want to apply to the photos…The choice is yours and you maintain control over how your photo can be used by others….”
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom later followed up with a longer blog post attempting to clarify misconceptions, stating, in part:
“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….The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question…”
Systrom also thanked users for their feedback, writing: “I am grateful to everyone for their feedback and that we have a community that cares so much. ”
“Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them,” the company wrote, seeking to assure users that the Instagram social network and its mechanics would remain the same.
Indeed, contrary to some mistaken complaints that Instagram was moving to take ownership of user photos, the terms clearly state: “Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content [photos and text] that you post on or through the Service [Instagram].” Instead, the company just notes that users tacitly agree to give Instagram a “non-exclusive license” to reuse their content. Facebook’s own terms contain similar language regarding user content.
But the new terms, prior to Systrom’s note, did expressly pave the way for Instagram and Facebook to begin offering advertisements based on and incorporating photos posted by users to either social network, and to share data between both sets of users.
Specifically, the clause that’s enraged many users is found in the new terms of service document, under the “Rights” section, point number 2, which reads:
“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.”
Translation: Instagram and Facebook can repurpose user photos and the location information users post to engage in targeted advertising, presumably similar to Facebook’s “changed its own terms of service in November to state it could share user information across both networks.
Late update: Updated to add Instagram’s official statement late Tuesday in response to user complaints.