Why We Shouldn’t be Surprised By Instagram’s ToS and Why I’m Leaving Instagram Unless It’s Changed

It’s been revealed that Facebook wants to be able to make money from the photos shared on Instagram, the company it paid almost $700m for in September (after a bid of $1bn in April 2012). Naturally, in order to do that all they have to do is add a few lines to the Terms of Service, which no one reads, stating that they can now sell your images with advertisers:

“We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.”

There are a number of points to be made about this, some cynical, and some to be taken seriously.

On the cynical, half-truth, note: we all (100 million of us) signed up to a free service and willingly gave them our content. Our content. Our content And what did we expect them to do with the content? After all, they are in the business of making money, and believe it or not, the internet is becoming less “free” every day. That which is “free” is paid for by reams of advertisements, or indeed by you. If you want something, you must pay for it. You are the product etc.

Too many people are “scared” of the internet; the big social networks, search engines, services etc. But it’s really very simple: if you don’t want someone to know something, don’t put it on the internet. Or, find an alternative. Want a search engine without personalised search and tracking? Try DuckDuckGo. Fed up with Facebook? Why not migrate to Diaspora? Or maybe the revamped Myspace? But you don’t jump ship, you stay where your friends are, and you learn to accept that it isn’t a free for all, it isn’t a democracy, and if you want something to be private don’t put it on the Internet. Sure you can lock down your account — go private. But how “private” do you really believe that is? And what value do you get from it? Operate a covert operation of mouthing off to a select few people of whom you don’t know and will never have a real connection with. But then you could get a pen and paper and begin with “Dear Diary…”

For those truly interested Terms of Service; Didn’t read has rated a number of free online web services by the way in which they handle the terms and privacy policies. As is stated, before the recent update, Instagram’s terms included the right for Instagram to distribute through any media, whereas now this right is also transferred to Facebook.

Sure it’s not very nice of Instagram/Facebook to sell your pictures to advertisers, however this is nothing new. Twitpic made a similar move in May 2011 to prevent users from selling or distributing their own images which had been uploaded to the service. This was then changed and everyone was happy. But few are aware that most photo sharing service have similar clauses: they own your data. While it is often in the best interests of the company to ask for and get the rights they can in order to display and reproduce content, many will abuse this right.

I will, however, leave Instagram unless they alter these terms before they come into effect on January 16 2013. I was reluctant to join to begin with and it was fun while it lasted. I care about my public image and my data and I’m willing to pay for a service which will not claim my work as theirs, without comment or credit. As I do, and will continue to. While I understand that in order to be a part of the social web today some sacrifices must be made, but this crosses the line. My images are not “throwaway”, each one tells a story. Part of my story. And I don’t give them away for free. Believe it or not, there are a lot more interesting and useful images than pictures of lattes, cats and sunsets for Facebook to make money from.

Here are just a few of my own favourite images taken with Instagram:

I think I aptly covered all relevant clichés.


Oh Autumn

Untitled — Sunset
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Lets Blow This Place Sky High #twitterjoketrial

There have been a lot of interesting stories floating about lately; the banning of the Hunky Dory ads because I stared at all the crisps, the people voting for a hung parliament, Ash Cloud being the new Swine Flu, to name a few, though one of the biggest stories for the technically minded, and free speech aware must be that of Paul Chambers who was given a hefty fine and a criminal record for a silly tweet, in the name of public interest.

twitter unfiltered

Paul who was traveling from Doncaster, to Northern Ireland during the snowy-spell of Jan ’10 found the town’s “Robin Hood Airport” closed a week before he was due to fly. In jest, and out of frustration he issued a flippant remark to his then 600 Twitter followers. A few days later it was picked up by an off-duty member of staff who felt the need to bring it up with management, who felt the need to inform the police, who then arrested Chambers, before asking him to explain Twitter.

“Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

It is only with large sums of ignorance that anyone would see this remark as a threat to national security under any act let alone the Terrorism Act and subsequently Paul was ordered to pay £600 costs, a £385 fine and a £15 victim surcharge (who’s the victim??).

Many kind people have offered to donate money to Paul for the charges such as the fine and possible further legal charges incurred, including the legendary Stephen Fry:

@pauljchambers Happy to pay your fine for you #twitterjoketrialless than a minute ago via Tweetie

As stated by his girlfriend, Paul was half way through qualifying as an accountant, “This conviction means he can’t qualify now. His career is ruined!”

A blog and twitter account have been set up to accept donations to cover the already incurred legal charges, fine and possible appeal.

Personally, I feel it was a silly thing to say, however, if one cannot be facetious when angry what can one do? It does bring up the issue of privacy, and education, that these mediums are public (unless otherwise stated/actions taken to make private) and can be seen by anyone, occasionally staff at the place you are giving off about. But a terrorist Paul is not. It was merely an off-the-cuff remark, a joke — a bad joke — if that cannot be seen there is something very wrong with the legal system.

Blogger Jack of Kent has full details of the case:

The CPS realised that they did not have sufficient evidence for the bomb hoax offence under the 1977 Act, that is the actual legislation dealing with supposed bomb hoaxes.
But the CPS were going to prosecute him anyway, as it was in the public interest to do so.

The problem would be that there would need to be an offence.
Thankfully, the CPS cannot (or at least should not) just prosecute someone in the “public interest” without an offence.

So some bright spark came up with section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
This makes it an offence for a person to send a “menacing” message over a public telecommunications network.

Issues of Freedom of Speech, intent and utter bullshit laws and indeed worse lawyers come to mind. Is humour dead? Is “big brother” watching everything? How does this affect our civil liberties?

I’m with Ultra Culture, a new Twitter game:

New Twitter game: what would you like to ‘blow sky high’? I’m going for the Cineworld in the Trocadero. #twitterjoketrialless than a minute ago via Tweetie

As Glinner says, “We’re not living in Prague 1965.”

Paul has expressed his own thoughts on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog.

Crazy Colours has more details on the fund. So far £1,850 has been raised.