Insta-gate: Let’s Sort Out the Truth Behind Instagram’s ToS Changes

As you are now aware, on December 17, 2012, Instagram released their new Terms of Service (ToS), scheduled to go into effect on January 16, 2013. Instagram’s ToS announcement sparked a wave of controversy from the minute the changes were posted on the network’s site and caused a frenzy of chatter around the Twitter water cooler.

Adding the Research Filter

When the news broke, the Aristotle team and I began reviewing the new ToS and researching trusted online sources to clearly understand the actual impact of Instagram’s changes. While the language in Instagram’s Terms of Service did raise many questions, our team did not think the social channel was actually intending to state that user posted photos and information would become the sell-able property of Instagram.

The Verge, an online media outlet that covers the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture, agreed with our assessment pointing out that the terms of service, if read carefully, were not meant to assume that Instagram will allow advertisers to modify and manipulate photos uploaded to the app and use them for advertising and marketing purposes.

In fact, the Verge article stated that the language suggests nothing different from Facebook’s terms and conditions for Sponsored Stories. Facebook Sponsored Stories utilize a user’s data, username, photos, and/or actions to display in Facebook’s social ads. The new Instagram terms actually were intended to state that Instagram has the right to allow advertisers to use user-data in the same fashion as Facebook for sponsored content.

Instagram Apologizes

By 4:00 p.m. CST on Tuesday, December 18, 2012, Instagram published a post on its blog with the company’s response to the allegations. The post included an admission of fault for the company’s error in writing unclear and misleading terms, which they have promised to revise and republish soon. In the blog post, Instagram’s CEO explicitly stated that users will continue to own their own content and categorically promised that photos would not be sold to advertisers.

The Takeaway

While we do expect Instagram to pursue creating a company that is revenue motivated and to provide tools that enable the social sharing channel to be profitable, we don’t expect that these changes will cause any difficulties or threats to you and your partners continued use of Instagram and Aristotle’s Aristogram for social marketing communications.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Was this just a big communication flub? Or is it really an Insta-gate moment? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

For further reading, please see The Verge and Instagram’s Official Blog.


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