Instagram Takes Step Toward Profitability by Updating Its ToS, Causes Grumbling

Earlier this month, Facebook stated that it’s working on strategies for monetizing Instagram. Now we’re starting to see the gears in the money-making machine warming up.

Instagram announced an update to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents today, with changes that will take effect on January 16, 2013. While it’s understandable that any service’s terms must change if rolls out a new business model, many users aren’t pleased with what some of the updated sections say.

In its blog post announcing the change, Instagram tries to put users at ease by reminding them that the copyright ownership and visibility of photographs will not change:

Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.

Regardless, certain sections of the document aren’t sitting well with some users, including New York Times technology guru Nick Bilton, who tweeted the following:

Here’s what you’ll find under the “Rights” section he’s referring to:


  1. Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here:
  2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.
  3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Alexis Madrigal over at The Atlantic argues that Instagram should offer a paid version for loyal users who don’t want their photographs participating in Facebook’s monetization plans. Roberto Baldwin over at Wired has published an article on how to download all your Instagram photos and nuke your account.

Bilton has published a piece over at the New York Times that explains what these updated terms mean for you. The basic gist: user info can now be shared with Facebook and 3rd parties, your face and/or your photos may be featured in an advertisement without your knowledge (underaged users are not exempt), and ads on the service will not always be labeled as ads.

It’s important to note that simply using the service means you agree to the terms. The only way to completely opt out at the moment is to (1) not log into your account ever again or (2) terminate your account.

P.S. This week hasn’t started out very well for Instagram. Yesterday, Bilton published an article suggesting that founder Kevin Systrom had misrepresented facts to government regulators during the Facebook acquisition process (facts regarding whether or not Twitter had offered to buy Instagram for half a billion prior to the Facebook deal).