There are some fantastic posts about the recent Instagram “scandal”, in which the company changed its terms of service to include a clause that reads as follows: “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.”
The thing is, the legal ramifications of the new TOS and the company’s response to the outcry are both less important than what is really going on here. Whether or not Instagram winds back the clock and rewords the above clause is irrelevant because the next company will not.
You see, there is something bigger going on here and users, myself included are going to have to start getting used to it. This story is the same deal as Facebook changing its privacy settings every other day and the same story as apps automatically tweeting/posting on your behalf. It can be summed up in four simple words: “Business first, privacy second”
In a world dominated by free web and mobile services, the only real option we have to preserve our privacy is to not use those services. If you decide to wave that option, even if the service emphasizes its understanding and appreciation of your privacy, you are a fool if you believe them.
Why would Instagram/Facebook pay for servers to host all those billions of pictures, if the companies had no intentions of turning them into a business? As many have said before, if you are using a service/app for free, you are not the customer/user, but rather the product.
Of course, that company, whichever one it may be, will eventually leverage you and your content for its own good. Will it sell your photos or share your tweets? Will it analyze your posts and target you or will it study your location over an extended period of time in order to better sell to you? All that stuff is the fine print, but there was and never will be a service that is completely free and has no intention of ever monetizing somehow.
Now, let me be clear. I am not comfortable with Instagram taking my pictures and using them in ads, that is just crazy talk, but once again, everyone needs to chill out a bit and get used to it.
I suggest everyone take a good look at their iPhones or Android phones, count the amount of free apps they use daily, whether it is Path to share when you get up and go to sleep, or Foursquare to share your precise location at any given moment, and realize the more you use these apps, the more you expose yourself .
It is really very simple, actually. The Web, and especially the social web combined with mobile “always on” technology, is not a private thing at its core. It is the most public thing the world has ever known. If you don’t want your pictures, posts, tweets, videos viewed by the world, don’t post them publicly, no matter how much you trust the platform on which you are sharing them.
Of course, blogging is different, assuming you own the site on which you blog. That is yours and using that commercially would obviously constitute plagiarism.
The bottom line is this. It seems like every week, there is another “scandal” concerning our online privacy. You know what is a great solution to ending all the drama? Understanding that privacy, as we knew it, is dead. Completely.
If you want to maintain strict privacy in which no one views your tweets, your Instagram account is your own and no one else can view your photos, your email is completely private and not used by Google to better learn your needs and tastes, etc, well then I suggest you start communicating via pigeons because we live in a new world and it has very little room for privacy.
Now lets all move on and continue uploading pictures of cats to Instagram. Come on, you know you want to.
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