There’s a lot of discussions and articles about Instagram’s new terms of Service, effective on Jan. 16th 2013. For different reasons, I decided to write a post with my personal opinion and thoughts regarding these, discussing some of the main concerns raised.
I’m not a legal expert, nor am I a technical expert in social media other than being a user of many of the services out there. I write this post as an avid and experienced user of different services (like FB, Instagram, Flickr, twitter, foursquare, about.me ++) and I’d like to call myself an expert in practical and logical thinking :). I’d like to note that this is my personal opinion, based on my way of thinking and my way of interpreting the legal terms discussed in some of the articles published about the new terms.
Before I start, maybe everyone should take a moment to think through how life would be without the services that "uses" us (like FB, twitter, google, Instagram +++++) If you want to stay private, the only way is to not use these services AT ALL, don't post anything online, don’t registre or order anywhere online, payed or not payed service. They all use our information.
Now about those terms. If you read the legal terms on their own, of course they sound scary (at least if you understand them:)). If you start putting them in practical examples combined with some pure logic, they might be less scary.
What’s an example of “using your username and photo in an ad” ? Have you ever had FB suggesting new friends? Based on the fact that you have several friends in common, they suggest that you know eachother. This is an ad, it probably isn’t recognized by you as one, but it is, and FB is using your data and your picture to make the suggestion to someone who might be a friend, but also might be a total stranger.
Have you ever registerd to a new service, i.e. pinterest, twitter, Instagram etc. and been asked to “find friends on FB”? This is a service provided by FB to third parties. They give the new service access to their users database and based on your email address they know who your friends are.
Have you ever stopped to think about why you get adds on FB that actually fits your interests? If you have registred somewhere that you are interested in photography, you get adds that are related to photography. That’s another example of FB using your data and giving it to third partys. I’m not bothered by this, because I’m not letting it bother me. I ignore it. If you don’t want this to happen, don’t put your interests out there.
Now about that logical thinking. Think about this: FB and Instagram needs us more than we need them. I repeat, Instagram needs us more than we need them!!!!
What would they be without their users? Would they really do something that made all the users stop using them??? I really don’t think so. They may have put some legal terms down to cover their backs, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to use them litterally and fully. Yes, they will use our data, give information about how many of us are interested in photography to third partys, give information about what places we visit, what we eat etc., but so do other services to which we registre. This is not something new. If you don’t want geographic/location information to be shared, don’t use the geo tag on your pictures or foursquare or “places” on FB. Only YOU can control this and you have the option to not give this information away. They can only use information that YOU give them. Just as they can only use pictures that YOU publish.
Now, take a minute to think about what it is exactly that you are you worried about that Instagram will do with the new terms. Are you worried that Instagram starts stealing your pictures and uses them to make money? I am not. I repeat I am NOT! This is where my logical thinking comes in. Have you ever read the Instagram blog? If you have, have you noticed that they always credit the owner of the pics that they publish? What does that tell you? Who wouldn't like to have their picture featured on that blog? You don't get payed for it, but it's a fantastic and valuable, not to forget honorable exposure. Do you still think that Instagram will steal your pictures and make money from them? What would that bring them exept unhappy “customers”? There’s no way Instagram (or FB for that matter) would survive and keep their users if they started using their pictures in a way that violated the owners copyrights. Believe me, they (they as in Instagram and FB and all the other services) know this, they know there are enough sites out there that monitor EVERYTHING they do, and like I said before: They need us more than we need them. And they know it.
I guess you already know that anyone who can see your pictures on FB or Instagram (or Flickr) can download them or copy them very easily. If you are worried about them being stolen, that’s a genuine worry, but I am much more worried about people, “friends” (as in followers on IG or twitter, or friends on FB) or just random people stealing them than I am in Instagram or FB doing it. The only way to reduce/avoid stealing is to watermark them, use low quality pics only or not post them at all. As a photographer, depending on selling my pictures and products to earn money, I worry about this too of course. But I think the benefits of publishing and sharing my pictures online is much greater than not sharing. It’s a choice that I have made and up till now it has helped me get where I am today. My business would have been close to nothing if I hadn’t had social media to share and show my work.