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Am I the product? Users react to Instagram’s terms of service shift

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Instagram (s fb) has had quite a week, and it’s still only Tuesday.

Monday morning the company released an update to its terms of service, set to go into effect on Jan. 16. The new terms had a good deal of phrases that users disliked, especially related to how Instagram might connect user content with advertising, and the internet collectively freaked out. While some of the response was certainly over-hyped, Instagram eventually realized it needed to clarify, and the company released a note to users on Tuesday afternoon that said it was listening and would alter some of the terms.

The reaction engaged average consumers in a debate that the technology and publishing worlds have been engaged in for some time now: Namely, that when consumers don’t pay to use a service, their data and information becomes the product, and that product can go up for sale (although of course this concept has its limitations.)

On Monday, several journalists and consumers articulated why they found the updated terms problematic, including Wired’s Mat Honan, who like many users, wrote that he was quitting Instagram on Monday:

“The issue is about more than using photos of my baby daughter, or deceased grandmother, in ads. The greater concern should be that the company would forge ahead with such a plan without offering any other option to the very users and data that built it.”

But many others weren’t as sure. Kevin Roose writing for NYMag reminded us that monetizing a user’s content with advertisers is how most social media companies make money, and Instagram is no different:

“Do people even know how the Internet works? The entire point of starting a social-media company is that it gives you the ability to make money by advertising things to people. Facebook does it by selling packets of user data to companies like Wal-Mart. Twitter does it by tacking promoted tweets onto your search terms. Gmail does it by showing you ads for Lean Cuisine next to your mom’s e-mail reminding you not to binge-eat during the holidays.

This is called “monetization,” and we have come to accept it as the inevitable price of getting cutting-edge Internet services for free. But now that Instagram, too, has decided to monetize, we are outraged.”

Artists and professional photographers in particular were incensed by the idea that their creative work might belong to the service that could then re-purpose it:

But once Instagram recanted on Tuesday, clarifying that it doesn’t want to sell your photos or turn you into an advertisement, the resulting reaction was more mixed:

Most interestingly, not everyone was assuaged by Instagram’s response. National Geographic, still one of America’s greatest symbols of photography, posted that it was suspending its Instagram account and would close it unless changes take place:

And for some celebrities, the changes still spell concern as well:

And it’s possible that the Instagram terms of service parody account explained the company’s stance best of all:

7 Responses to “Am I the product? Users react to Instagram’s terms of service shift”

  1. Did anyone really NOT expct this to be the next step once Instagram was acquired by the kings of sell your data down the river? You are the product and always have been and you have no recourse other than not to use the platform. Being a user means shit to these profit driven companies and when you really understand that you can decide what you will and will not tolerate.

    I turned my back on fakebook long ago and am constantly reassured that it was a wise decision. Bitch all you want, but until you choose to not participate and go elsewhere where users are respected, then you deserve what you get.

  2. as has been pointed out, flickr does what instagram does but WAY BETTER, with a variety of formats , high definition, and the ability to choose whatever rights you reserve for your pics, allowing your work to be credited, sold, distributed, etc. of course yahoo had its head up its ass for 10 years, but they finally got a genius programmer ceo and marissa is doing what is needed. obviously there would be no need for instagram (or facebook, for that matter) if yahoo had harnessed 10% of its potential over the last decade, so here we are, and people post their ridiculously low-quality pictures with their atrociously ugly filters because – because what? because it’s convenient, and that is ALL. that is all, really, really it’s all that is. flickr needed only to be convenient for the mobile age, and hopefully it’s now on its way to getting there.

  3. Mzia Kupunia

    In case you decided to quit Instagram, before deleting the photos I recommend you to keep your Instagram photos with the help of PastBook. This platform at allows to keep IG and Facebook photos in a nicely designed book not only online, but offline as well: as a PDF or a professionally printed book. Photos include all comments and likes from Instagram. I find it very cool! ;)