Facebook Says It Can Sell Instagram Users' Photos, Sparking Uproar

Tuesday, 18 Dec 2012 02:00 PM

By Megan Anderle

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Users of the smartphone photo-sharing app Instagram are fuming about a privacy policy change that could put their pics up for sale, and some of its 100 million users are deleting their accounts with the Facebook-owned outfit.

The application allows users to take photos, apply funky filters on them, and then share the pictures with followers who can then comment on or “like” the photos, and Facebook said Tuesday that the network now has the right to sell those photos without payment or notification.

Facebook acquired Instagram three months ago. Under the new policy, Facebook has a monopoly over Instagram users’ photos and can sell them to any company or organization, including for advertising purposes, without their knowledge. If users do not delete their accounts before Jan. 16 when the policy takes effect, they cannot opt out.

For example, CNET points out, if a user is at a hotel in Hawaii and Instagrams a photo, that resort could pay Facebook to license the photo on its website, in television advertisements, on brochures, and so forth, without paying or telling the user. In addition, some photos, such as ones from a Hawaiian resort, might not be labeled advertisements under the new policy.

The change would give Instagram a huge inventory of photos for sale, making it the largest stock photo agency.

If users delete their accounts after the Jan. 16 deadline, they may have granted Facebook the irrevocable right to sell images in perpetuity, according to the tech blog.

Users under the age of 13 who sign up are not exempt from this policy.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment. On Instagram’s company blog, it wrote that the “updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.”

Unlike Facebook, Google’s policy does not permit the company to sell users’ photos uploaded to Google+ or Picasa. Neither does Yahoo’s for users who upload photos to Flickr.

The new Instagram policy includes a section that does not hold the social media network accountable for making users’ private photos public. “Instagram will not be liable for any use or disclosure of any content you provide,” the policy states.

This isn’t the first time a sweeping privacy change has spurred public outcry. In 1998, Yahoo made its policy similar to Facebook’s, claiming the right to use Geocities users’ text and photos. A week later, though, the web site backed down after widespread criticism.

CNET said that although Facebook might not monetize Instagram photos, the potential is there, and lawyers used overly broad language so there’s much room for interpretation for what is to come.

Here’s what people are saying on Twitter about the changes:



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