Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Privacy and Trust

Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook for ~$1 billion ~$700 million in stock, made a change to is TOS earlier this week and caused a firestorm of criticism. The changes were interpreted to allow Instagram/Facebook to sell your photos without permission nor compensation.

Facebook's new rights to sell Instagram users' photos come from two additions to its terms of use policy. One section deletes the current phrase "limited license" and, by inserting the words "transferable" and "sub-licensable," allows Facebook to license users' photos to any other organization.

A second section allows Facebook to charge money. It says that "a business or other entity may pay us to display your... photos... in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you." That language does not exist in the current terms of use.

After the PR fiasco, Instagram backed down and removed some language. Their CEO said:
Blah, blah, blah...

Legal documents are easy to misinterpret.

Blah, blah, blah...

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.

Blah, blah, blah...

I call bullsh*t. Basically they tried to expand the TOS so they could do whatever but got busted. It's ludicrous to claim that their legalese was misinterpreted. I've worked with lawyers at many companies; they know exactly what they want to say. To blame all this on users is lame.

I've deleted my Instagram account. I didn't talk that many photos with it and I'm picky about what I share. The TOS change most likely won't affect me anyway. However, there's a lot of pressure to monetize their database of users and photos, and this episode shows that Instagram/Facebook will do whatever as long as they don't get caught by their users.

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