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This article was published on December 21, 2012

Instagram rolls back advertising section of Terms of Service to original, in place since 2010

Instagram rolls back advertising section of Terms of Service to original, in place since 2010
Matthew Panzarino
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Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

Instagram has announced that it is rolling back the controversial advertising section of its terms of service to the original version that has been in place since 2010. This is obviously in response to the outcry that occurred when changes made it appear as if Instagram was going to ‘sell’ photos to advertisers.

After user outcry earlier in the week, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom had to issue a statement saying that “it is not our intention to sell your photos.”

Now, Systrom says that the feedback has led Instagram to revert the advertising section of the new terms to the one that has been in place since the service launched. The updates to those terms, including the advertising section, can be found here.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed,” Systrom explains in the post, “we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

Systrom goes on to reiterate that the service never had any intention of selling the photos of its users. “We don’t own your photos — you do,” he states.

This blog post takes a far more contrite tone than the last one, and Systrom plainly apologizes for the poor communication of its intentions. He says that after the new terms were posted “…it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.”

It’s important to note that note that only the sections of the TOS that apply to advertising and how Instagram will use photos to support that are being reverted. Instagram notes that it has made a small change that is intended to more clearly indicate that any license will still abide by its rules safegaurding the photos of private accounts. Here’s how that section will appear:

Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.

What is fairly sad about this change is that there was nothing wrong with the new advertising section in the first place. The new terms actually gave them less license to do what they wanted as it omitted the ability to place ads directly on your content. When the whole debacle started to ramp up, I posted on Twitter that there was a lot of complaints over something that basically had not changed. Instagram could always do what it wanted with your photos while you were a member, and now it still can, just with more permissive language.

One clause in particular from the new TOS remains in what will become the official version and is more troubling:

You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

As Instagram is in the process of creating and testing ad products that it thinks will help it to monetize without destroying the integrity of the platform, this section is key. This is how it will allow brands, perhaps paying brands, to insert images into your feed that are essentially advertisements.

Though most of the hubbub has been centered around the language in the licensing section, there is still some concern that the wording related to paid services may violate some advertising rules set by the FCC.

In the end, the sale of Instagram photos was never really in the cards. The photos of users themselves, no matter how good or personally important, are not the value held on Instagram’s servers. That resides in the data, including locations, hashtags, likes and more. The data is what Instagram will use to pitch advertisers on whatever their eventual plans are to monetize the service.

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