User Experience and Privacy Thrown Under the Bus

When I discovered that Instagram was implementing changes in their Terms of Service I was glad that I never jumped on this particular bandwagon. Companies are allowed to change their ToS, but this change was such a bad one, in my opinion, for users.

There was never a moment though that I wouldn’t have deleted this app NOW if I was a user.

Then I read the Nilay Patel article on the Verge,
No, Instagram can’t sell your photos: what the new terms of service really mean”

That ruffled my feathers simply because it is so misleading and might actually confuse the situation. The article title is a contradiction from the facts.

Yes, Instagram Can Sell Your Photos

How clear can the writing be. We can’t compare this to other services with so called broad terms, if they have at least acted somewhat responsibly in this area. Since Facebook now owns Instagram, there is no free ride on this topic. Facebook has already been around the block on privacy and knows the score.

What That Really Means

To address the Nilay Patel article though, here is a comment that pretty much nailed what I was feeling :

As a lawyer, I think this article is ill informed and dangerous nonsense. The old terms allowed Instagram to put adverts on the Instagram service alongside your content, which is not surprising. It contained a bit of extra wording but that was clearly in the context of ads running on Instagram’s own service – i.e.. you couldn’t complain if your picture appeared on Instagram itself next to an advert.

The new wording “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.” clearly allow them to sell your content to whomever they want, it doesn’t say that the promotions or content have to be on Instagram, or in any way related to Instagram except the implication that it must in some unspecified way be ‘sponsored’ by Instagram.

It’s obviously very carefully worded by their legal team, as you might expect for such an important development – carefully worded to be vague or reassuring where it doesn’t matter, and specific where it needs to be. Using words like “interesting” (meaningless, but intended to put a gloss on it), and “supported” (again meaningless, but intended to confuse), is annoying, but the underlying meaning of the new term is pretty much clear. They can sell your content to third parties for promotions etc. in other words, adverts – outside Instagram. Read the term again missing out the words “interesting” and “sponsored” and the meaning becomes clearer. If they manage to squeeze this through I imagine there could be a further refinement down the line allowing adjustments to including cropping of images.

January 16, 2013 is the deadline to download your Instagram photos and delete your account before being locked into this non-opt-out change. – If you are so inclined.

I would actually be surprised if Instagram didn’t revise this policy though considering the uproar it is causing. For me, I’m scratching off the join Instagram from my to-do list because their tactics are do-do.

No filter is worth this blatant bait and switch attempt. It’s their platform, but sometimes even the cattle can find greener pastures elsewhere.

[UPDATE]
Instagram is backing down : Thank you, and we’re listening – Instagram Blog

The fact that they tried to is enough for me not to try them.

[UPDATE Wed, 12/19/12]
I just wanted to ad that Instagram’s PR problems do not originate from a poorly written ToS document. This document is closely vetted by Legal. It appeared to us, exactly as it was intended by the stakeholders who signed off on it. The proposed ToS was actually pretty clear. The author below elaborates on why this was and is not an issue of a confusing ToS or bad “tone of voice”.
Instagram didn’t get the tone wrong

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