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22 Dec 12 The Instagram Debacle: What’s Happening and How it Affects You

Last week was a busy one for Instagram, which suffered a major backlash from users over unclear wording and changes to the site’s privacy policy. Over the course of a few days, the popular social photo sharing network enraged its users, nearly lost millions of members, backpedaled in an effort to cover their tracks, and now is dealing with the public relations nightmare that arose from the debacle.

What Happened to Instagram?

The clamor started when users noticed new wording in Instagram’s user agreement that seemed to indicate that Instagram could sell user photos at will without asking permission, notifying the users, or providing monetary compensation. The language also indicated that Instagram should share personal information with affiliates, including Facebook, the new owner of the service.

Almost immediately, the news hit social media networks, with users threatening to shut down their accounts if the policy wasn’t changed. Instagram responded by basically saying that it was all just a big misunderstanding. They had no intentions of selling your photo of your child to, say, a kid’s clothing company. They simply wanted to use your pictures to let others know how much you love a business, and why they should too.

While that scenario doesn’t sound much better, it’s already being used by Facebook. When you “like” a business, your face may show up on your friend’s sidebar stating that you like this company, so maybe they should too. This happens without your permission or knowledge, and although Facebook receives a sizeable amount for the ad, you don’t see a dime of that money. It should come as no surprise that once Facebook bought Instagram, the same would happen on that network.

How Does it Affect You?

If you just take random pictures of your family and friends, and aren’t really concerned about how those images are used on the social media network, then the terms don’t really impact you at all. However, many people use Instagram for blogging, sharing their professional photos, and other purposes that involve a little more concern over how images are used.

Despite the backpedaling and the claims that Instagram doesn’t intend to use your photos for nefarious purposes, the wording is still quite open-ended and vague. It still grants permission to the photo sharing network to do exactly what it’s saying it won’t do. Agreeing to the terms in hopes that they’ll keep their word opens you up to having your pictures used for monetary gain without your permission.

Users now have a big decision to make: they can either stick with the network in hopes that their images won’t be ripped off, or they can jump ship and go to a new network. For bloggers and other social media professionals who have spent countless hours trying to develop a following on Instagram, the choice may not be as easy as it sounds.

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