I told you so (ish), but it doesn’t change anything

Way back when Facebook bought Instagram, I sort of suggested they might be interested in ruining your privacy. And from today’s furor it seems like a lot of other Internet folks are taking that view.

From Gawker (linked reluctantly) saying the new TOS are a “suicide note”—I thought suicide notes were supposed to be dark—to Wired showing you how to download your photos and delete your account, the pundits are convinced this is the end for Instagram.

Of course, the TOS change in question is:

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.

Sound familiar? It should, since it’s been Facebook’s policy for a long time. When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, they figured that they could make much, much more than that, and obviously now they’ve decided advertising is the way to go. Whether it is the way is a post for another time.

Instagram and its corporate overlord parent may be overreaching here, and the loudness of the opposition is pretty compelling, but not much has changed. You still own your content, and are granting Instagram a license to use it—just like you do with Twitter, Tumblr and, yes, Facebook. It’s a pretty unpleasant policy to say they can use it to advertise any product they choose, but the people most likely affected are professional photographers.

I think Instagram has made it too easy to share—Twitter drama notwithstanding—for users to start moving away en masse. If users valued privacy and control over how their content was displayed, they’d actually leave Facebook. But most don’t, because it’s easy to use and they know people on there. Facebook’s executives have learned that lesson. They might take a PR beating over the next few weeks, but in the end, terms of service like this are going to be the new normal, as depressing as that might seem.


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