Instagram users have some soul searching to do between now and Jan. 16 when new terms of service kick in that give the photo-sharing social network the right to sell personal photos without the user’s permission or compensating them.
The most startling change reads: “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.”
That language has privacy experts on edge, not to mention that a user’s only option to avoid the issue would be to opt out of Instagram altogether before Jan. 16.
“If users are dissatisfied with a social network’s practices, they should have the ability to leave – which means being able to remove one’s entire account so that the data is no longer under the social network’s control,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl on the organization’s website. “ Here, however, if you agree to these terms, and then – perhaps after the commercialization feature is activated sometime next year – decide to leave the service, Instagram retains the ‘non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license’ to all of your photos. “
The privacy offshoot for users is that personal vacation photos could be bought by companies and used in advertisements, for example. Also, photos of children, for example, could also be used in promotional or sponsored content.
“It is very hard for you to make an informed choice, since Instagram has not explained how it will implement this monetization,” Opsahl said. “In effect, they are asking you to agree to allow them to do whatever they choose to do later, whether or not there is an opt-in, opt-out or user controls over the future commercialization.”
Opsahl added that the lack of an opt-out option has hurt Facebook in the past, and that it could be headed toward similar trouble with its new terms.
“It violates the principle of user control, since there is no explicit opt-in permission from the user for this change in how user content will be used,” he said.
Instagram, also, may run into issues with respective state policy laws, and the fact that the user who may agree to the release of the photo may not be the subject of the photo.
“A right to the user’s ‘likeness’ is not going to substitute for a model release from the subject of the photograph,” Opsahl said.