I’ll be honest—I’m a little late to the Instagram party. I don’t have an account and really didn’t have plans to get one. So when my Facebook feed lit up last week with complaints about Instagram selling uploaded content for advertising purposes beginning mid-January, I skimmed right over most of my friends’ comments.
Then I got to thinking about it, and the “privacy” social networkers expect to be afforded. Isn’t the whole point of such networking to be public? In the end though, I don’t think it’s a public vs. private debate here. Users know what they post is going to be shared—that’s the point. But they don’t expect to be linked to a third-party by what they upload, and they really don’t plan for someone else to profit from it.
Along the same lines, I use a rewards card at the grocery store when I buy food, knowing full-well the supermarket tracks my frequent purchases. It’s no surprise when it sends me coupons for items I usually buy. But where this Instagram debate was different—my face doesn’t get linked to my favorite brands and my opinions don’t become marketing for others. It doesn’t bother me when Facebook, which as of fall 2012 owns Instagram, tailors the offers visible in the margins of my screen. I see the value in such targeted advertising. However, I don’t want to see my own content included in those ads and I especially don’t want others to.
The outrage that took over Facebook and Twitter feeds and prompted users to cancel their accounts quickly grabbed the company’s attention. In this blog post, Instagram’s co-founder addressed concerns and retracted some of the wording in the original Terms of Service. He claims selling user photos for ads was never Instagram’s plan and “because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.” But is it enough to bring back those who already deleted their accounts? Will new gadget owners still download the app onto the gifts found under the tree this week? I sure didn’t.