by Constantine von Hoffman

Instagram Proves We Care More About Pictures Than Personal Data

Dec 19, 20123 mins
Data and Information SecurityInternetPrivacy

We seem to accept that Facebook and Pinterest hand off our personal data to advertisers, but a virtual angry mob gathers at the mere idea that Instagram might use people's pictures in advertising.

Thanks to Instagram we now know consumers value their pictures far more than their personal data.

On Monday, the photo sharing service published a new privacy policy and terms-of-service saying that anything posted on Instagram became the company’s property. Shortly thereafter a virtual angry mob armed with pixels in the shape of torches and pitchforks took to the internet demanding the company’s head on a stick – or maybe a thumb drive.

Why all the outrage? Pinterest claims the same thing and no one is trying to storm their castle.

The difference with Instagram is that that these terms appear to let the company also do a thing like sell advertisements that incorporate a person’s username, likeness and photos, to name just a few.

The next day cofounder Kevin Systrom did the only reasonable thing: Throwing himself on the simulated ground before the crowd and begging for mercy.

“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

And what does “innovative advertising” mean?

“We envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.”

In other words, they’re selling your data.

It is important to note that Instagram is owned by that great succubus of personal data, Facebook. Throughout the social networking site’s rise to prominence (and drop in stock price) it has made no secret of its intent to sell every piece of information it can get its hands on.

There have been many protests about this over the years and not one of them has amounted to anything.

So the marketplace has spoken: You can have our data but don’t even think of taking our pictures!