Friday, 18 January 2013

Instagram is learning

After last month's debacle, when Instagram tried to shortcut its users and introduce new terms and conditions, a huge number of users displayed outrage. Even worse for the social network, news reports towards the end of last year suggested that the number of active users had dropped by half. In fact, the social network today revealed its own analytics for the first time today and the statistics are phenomenal; there are 90 million monthly active users and 40 million photos are uploaded each today.

The main problem they faced when they introduced their new terms of service was that their users felt betrayed. With their ToS coming into action from 19 January, Instagram is learning. This morning I received a very short email reminding me about the new introduction and the last sentence was a strong reminder that I do indeed own my images:

"And remember, these updates don't change the fact that you own your photos that you post on Instagram, and our privacy controls work just as they did before."

The email also included a link to a blog post, hosted on Tumblr, which essentially states that the new terms help the company to become better integrated with Facebook, especially as far as sharing data is concerned. And there was yet another reminder that the users own their own images.

So let's have a look at the terms. Shuffling through the first half, there's not much to say. Then comes the interesting section: 'Rights'.

"1. Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service's Privacy Policy, available here, including but not limited to sections 3 ("Sharing of Your Information"), 4 ("How We Store Your Information"), and 5 ("Your Choices About Your Information"). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy."

Just in case you didn't get it yet, Instagram does not own your images. However, users do give them a right to use the content. What it likely means, behind the legal jargon is that Instagram can use your images on the social network, as you publish them onto your account.

"2. Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you."

Beware the introduction of advertising on and around the social network. Whether that be advertised profiles running through the feed or recommended profiles to follow, it will be coming.

The other point that users kicked up a fuss about was a section in the Terms of Service that said:

"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."

They've now scrapped that and gone back to the original conditions in that respect.

Instagram has learnt now to play around with its users and it is certainly being more cautious. Yet they still need to improve further. They already wrote a blog post, but next time they must be clear and transparent from the start. They should just tell users that adverts are coming and be open. That's the way to win the hearts of the social network users.

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