Instagram Responds to Privacy Uproar

In response to the uproar over changes to Instagram’s privacy policy, Instagram decided to return to its previous Terms of Service, which have been in effect since October 2010. Proposed clauses provided the company with the authority to sell users’ photos without warning or compensation. Users would also waive rights to participate in class-action lawsuits against the company. While Instagram has reverted to its original Terms of Service, it still retains the clause forbidding arbitration as well as ads with user content.

Just two days after its announcement, the photo-sharing giant decided to reinstate its Terms of Service on Thursday, December 20. According to Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder, as far as advertising goes, the company would revert to its previous terms of service:

“Rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

This decision was seen as too little-too late by customers, who had already defected to other services. Systrom responded to user concerns late on December 20 by saying: “I want to be really clear; Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.”

The company, recently purchased by Facebook for a surprising $735 million this year, was scrambling as high-profile users, like National Geographic decided to stop using accounts in light of the changes. Other dissatisfied users turned to Twitter and Facebook to make their opinions known.

New Providers

The proposed changes drove many former Instagram users to search for new photo-sharing services, including Pheed. It’s an Instagram-like app which provides users with the option to monetize their own content by charging followers to see their posts.

By Thursday, December 20, Pheed was the ninth most downloaded social networking app in Apple’s iTunes store, even ahead of LinkedIn. According to O.D. Kobo, Pheed’s chief executive, on Dec.20, subscriptions to the service quadrupled in that week alone, and in the last 24 hours users uploaded 300,000 new files to the service, more uploads than any other 24-hour period since the debut of Pheed just six weeks ago.

Another close competitor was Flickr, the photo-sharing service by Yahoo. It redesigned its app last week in order to make it easier to share photos via Twitter. This was just in time as Instagram was in the process of announcing it would no longer sync with Twitter, a Facebook rival.

Notably, Facebook and Instagram have declined to confirm or deny any significant number of account deletions, or if they were concerned about losing their market in the photo-sharing world.

Class-Action Lawsuit on the Horizon

User backlash over the new terms of service included massive coverage in the news as well as a lawsuit filed by San Diego-based firm Finkelstein & Krinsk, on behalf of Instagram user Lucy Funes and other plaintiffs. This was the first civil lawsuit filed as a result of the changes in service terms. They claim that Instagram breached their contract with users as the only way to get out of the terms is to completely deactivate the service.

Furthermore, users must forfeit the rights of the photos they have already shared. According to the lawsuit, “Instagram declares that ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don’t like it, you can’t stop us.’”


This article follows up on Instagram’s major announcement that it would change its Terms of Service. In response to substantial user backlash, the photo-sharing service determined that it would revert back to its original terms and privacy policy, until it could properly develop its advertising services.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/Information Technology (CIPP/IT), a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Privacy expectations – the consumer perspective (II.A.a.)
  • Privacy expectations – organizational practices (II.A.b.)
  • Unauthorized account access or data sharing (II.C.b.iv.)

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