Today, I’m bringing you a special edition of my Oh My Tech!column to tell you that Facebook and Instagram are more evil than I thought, and that there are ways to combat them.
Case in point is the uproar over a new terms-of-service policy involving the popular photo-sharing service, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
Instagram enables users to take a picture, use one of a number of photo filters to spiff it up — say give it an old-time feel with a sepia-tone filter — and then upload it to Instagram’s servers for all to see. Three months ago, Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion.
It was revealed Monday that the geniuses at Facebook/Instagram/Evil have changed their terms of service. Starting Jan. 16, Instagram can sell any photos on the service to third parties for the sake of advertisements or promotions and without any compensation to the person who took it.
Say you upload a really cool photo of your family playing on the beach in Cancun. A resort there could buy that photo from Facebook/Instagram/Evil and use it for promotional purposes without your permission and without paying you a dime. All of a sudden, your family is part of a major advertising campaign without your consent. Most likely, the pictures would be used for sponsored posts within Instagram the way you occasionally see sponsored ads in Facebook.
Even if you don’t use Instagram and a friend shoots a picture of you that is uploaded to his or her Instagram account, you could end up in an advertisement. Also, photos of kids are not exempt from being used, according to the new terms of service.
Naturally, Instagram users are furious, and they should be. Despite the fact that no one should expect privacy if they upload their pictures to a worldwide Internet service, it’s reasonable to expect that your photos would not end up on some billboard. And it’s reasonable to assume that if they were used for an ad, you would be paid for it. This is corporate greed of the worst kind.
The reaction has been so harsh, in fact, Instagram was forced to respond in order to try and calm frayed nerves.
“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram,” company co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog posting Tuesday. “Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”
Just remember, if the terms of service instituted by Facebook/Instagram/Evil stand, the only way to opt out is to delete your Instagram account.
So, here is how you can do that.
First, make sure you have copies of all the photos you’ve ever uploaded to Instagram. There is a nifty free service called Instaport that can help you do this. Go to http://126.96.36.199/. It will collect your Instagram photos and let you download them to a zip file on your computer in just a few minutes. You also can upload the photos directly to another photo service, such as Flickr. The only downside is the service was so busy Tuesday, I couldn’t get it to work.
Then go to http://help.instagram.com/customer/portal/articles/95760 to start the simple process of deleting your account. That’s it.
If you’re still jonesing to shoot photos and give them a distinctive look with photo filters, there are some alternatives, including Flickr and Snapseed. Even Twitter now includes photo filters that can be used before you Tweet a picture.
If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at email@example.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.
Instagram’s new terms of service
Unless the company makes revisions, starting Jan. 16, Instagram can sell any photos on the service to third parties for the sake of advertisements or promotions and without any compensation to the person who took it.