Oh Mark Zuckerberg, when will you learn?
Instagram started this week by quietly making two major shifts in their terms of service. For one, they claimed ownership over every image their users post, enabling them to sell those images without compensation or notification, even as they simultaneously absolved themselves of any class action liability. Oh, and they offered no opt out.
This is lousy. Kind of heinous even. The fact that they tried to slip it through with a blog post that made no mention of these specific changes demonstrates a corporate oiliness we’ve grown to expect from Facebook-owned entities. Still, blatant chutzpah notwithstanding, you have to admire how quickly and cheaply they crowdsourced the world’s biggest stock photo library…
But as should be expected in a medium that trades on information, the web noticed, word spread and within hours, a massive backlash mushroomed. Predictably, Instagram seemed to reverse course by mid-day Tuesday. This rhebus outlines the action; first the company announces, then the web revolts, then the company recants, claiming to be misunderstood with a PR spin absolutely no one believes.
We should be used to this kind of end around from any Facebook-owned entity. It’s not like this is new behavior from Mr. Z; it’s almost like he can’t stop himself from imperiously disrespecting the people who use his services. How many times has he tried to sneak through surreptitious changes to Facebook’s privacy policies?
But all’s better now, right? Actually, not so fast. First, their CEO simply claimed “it’s not our intention to sell your photos”–which is hardly legally binding. Instagram’s new terms of service remain–this is just damage control.
They also haven’t recanted the second shift in their terms of service; namely that “…we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.” In other words, that cool photo you see on your home page? That might actually be paid content, or what old people call ‘ads.’
The web runs on sponsored content, and we accept that. But on reputable sites, it’s identified, helping those sites maintain both credibility and an ethical balance with visitors. With this policy, Instagram is intentionally creating a gray area and you can almost hear them daring their users; “go on, see if you can tell what’s organic and what we’ve placed there.”
Hmmm… I’m no dotcom billionaire, but it seems to me, the web community just proved they’re pretty good at that.
So long Instagram, it was a fun two years.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
PS: Thanks Devin Bousquet, for the awesome profile picture.