Oh, Instagram’s New TOS Annoys You? Just Wait, It’s Only the Beginning

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.

One of the best posts on the matter come from MG Siegler here, but the two most important posts come from Nilay Patel at The Verge and Instagram itself.

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.

Instagram all your photos belong to us

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.

Author: Hillel Fuld

"Hillel is a tech blogger who manages multiple sites such as Technmarketing, Appboy, and inneractive. In addition, Hillel has written on many leading online publications such as Mashable, Gigaom, and others. In addition to his blogger hat, Hillel is an active Twitter personality who defines himself as a "Social media addict". When Hillel is not blogging or tweeting, he is the Head of Marketing for inneractive, a mobile startup that deals with app monetization across all mobile platforms."

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  • http://twitter.com/MicheleCee MicheleCee

    Intersect and Intersect iPhone App. is the company I use for some of my photography. Intersect is also used by The Washington Post. TOS at Intersect state that the User retains all control to their content. Being a photojournalist I am always concerned about copyright and when a company reveals itself as attempting to take advantage of the User then that is a big red flag to get out and turn to another company that honors the User first. Companies rely on User content to drive their site. Just because Instagram has backed off their TOS now, doesn’t mean their attorney’s aren’t working their butts off to find another way to make a buck from User generated content! Use your brain: there is a billion dollars involved!

  • http://twitter.com/FarhanaRahman Farhana Rahman

    Yes, privacy is dead. Especially with the free apps. People really are blowing this out of proportion. I for one, am not about to set all my social profiles to ‘private.’ I don’t care if my pics of public places and what not get used elsewhere- whatever- they only take a second to snap, and a second to filter. It would be crazy if people go all out watermarking their pics. Take it easy everyone! If you don’t like the changes- move on- and good luck to you.

  • http://twitter.com/denawf Dena Wieder-Freiden

    Totally agree with your opinions here, Hillel. It’s what I’ve been telling people for the past couple of years. But still, so many seem to freak out that their privacy has been compromised. It’s just something we all need to accept – life in today’s world means no such thing as 100% privacy!

  • vasras

    Privacy is DEAD, if you want to :

    – be on social networks an connect with other people. You can’t be private, because your social contacts won’t respect your privacy, but publish info about you anyway

    – use free, usage leaking, contacts reading and adverts showing software

    – register to services that need a real name, address & details

    As long as you can be behind multiple nicks and only connect them yourself, you have some privacy.

    But only as long as you don’t let computers beyond your desktop connect those online personas and the information they contain.

    So yes, in all practical terms, privacy is dead and was on life-support ever since Facebook become really popular. Facebook killed it on the mass scale, the others merely assisted.

  • vasras

    Only available on the second most successful mobile operating system, I’m afraid.

  • swift11

    Afaik Android is controlled by an advertising company aka Google. Privacy is DEAD if you have an Android phone.

  • scottbergmn

    Everyone seems to want something for nothing these days, they are entitled to it they believe. Although social media sites may not be charging money, you do pay a price if you use their services and of course that is in privacy and advertising. It’s the nature of the beast. Privacy is boring anyhow.