Instagram privacy terms draw fury from users
Facebook using photo-sharing underling to test legal waters, say analysts
Social media users have vented their fury regarding Instagram's revised terms of service, which allow the photo-sharing service "to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata)" on behalf of advertisers without consultation or remuneration, Reuters reported.
Legal experts and consumer advocates claim the new conditions about to be enforced by the Facebook-owned company gives Instagram unprecedented control over its users' personal data.
Instagram has added some clauses to protect itself against litigation similar to that brought against Facebook over privacy issues, but Reuters reported that one clause appears to waive the rights of minors on the service.
"This is all uncharted territory," said Jay Edelson, a partner at Chicago law firm Edelson McGuire.
"If Instagram is to encourage as many lawsuits as possible and as much backlash as possible then they succeeded."
Users who do not wish to be bound by the new terms have one month to delete their accounts.
"Instagram has given people a pretty stark choice: Take it or leave, and if you leave it you've got to leave the service," said Kurt Opsahl, a senior litigator with Internet user right's group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
As users blogged their concerns over the company's possible monetisation of their personal content, Instagram released an online statement clarifying the terms and CEO Kevin Systrom claimed users had nothing to worry about as photos would not be used in ads.
The statement failed to stem the tide of protests, including some from prominent sources.
"We are very concerned with the direction of the proposed new terms of service and if they remain as presented we may close our account," said National Geographic, an early Instagram adopter.
Critics accused Instagram of testing legal waters on behalf of Facebook, which has to step lightly because of a 2011 settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission, which compels the social media firm to seek permission before sharing its users' personal information with third parties.
To avoid similar actions, Instagram included clauses in the new terms that massively reduce its users' ability to take legal action against it, including a requirement to mail a written statement to Facebook's Menlo Park HQ within 30 days of joining Instagram if they wish to opt out of the prescribed arbitration process for complaints. Failure to submit the opt-out statement would mean the account holder would be unable to join a class action suit against the company. Twitter, Google, YouTube and even Facebook, do not operate such a clause.
Michael Rustad, a professor at Suffolk University Law School who has studied the terms of services for 157 social media services, said just 10 contained provisions prohibiting class action lawsuits.
"No lawyers will take these cases," Rustad said. "In consumer arbitration cases, everything is stacked against the consumer. It's a pretense, it's a legal fiction, that there are remedies."
"I think Facebook is probably using Instagram to see how far it can press this advertising model," said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
"If they can keep a lot of users, then all those users have agreed to have their images as part of advertising."