The Lowlights of Instagram’s New Terms of Service

Facebook Instagram Logo BlendIf you just take the Instagram blog post‘s definition of what they are doing with their new terms of services you would think that there is nothing in the new terms of service, set to take hold on January 16, 2013, that anyone should have any concern about.

Our community has grown a lot since we wrote our original terms of service. To get things up to date for the millions of people now using Instagram, we’re bringing you new versions of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Here are a few key updates:

  • Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.
  • Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.
  • Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.

Protect and serve. Well according to the Bits blog over at the New York Times, if you read the full measure of these updates there are some less than optimal pieces of the new policy that really show what the online space is coming to.

1. Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook, its parent company, as well as outside affiliates and advertisers.

2. You could star in an advertisement — without your knowledge.

3. Underage users are not exempt.

4. Ads may not be labeled as ads.

5. Want to opt out? Delete your account.

Read the NYT Bits piece for more detail.

In all of this, I get that Facebook wants to make money. I get that marketers need data to be smart about who they reach. I get all of that.

What I don’t get is the tactic of basically telling someone that “Look, this is how we do this at this wildly popular app / service that you like. You basically have no say in how we use your data (insert favorite “It’s a free service!” argument here) so just carry on and act as if you are OK with everything even though you don’t have the option to control how any of your stuff is used unless you simply leave which we know most of you sheep won’t do.” It’s heavy handed and it takes advantage of the fact that most people simply are not paying attention.

We are entering what seems to be a dark age where options are few and far between. I realize I will sound like I am grousing here but that’s only because I don’t really have an answer. One thought is to allow people to pay a nominal monthly fee to participate but shield their data. That way Instabook makes money and the user doesn’t get put on sale to the highest bidder. Of course, if this is something that will limit growth then Facegram can’t do that because no growth means no success in the eyes of shareholders.

Sometimes the ‘Big Brother like’ elements of the new information economy sound a bit scary or is that just me? What’s your take?

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