Instagram backpedals, reverts to original ad terms

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Following an outpouring of consumer frustration over proposed changes to its privacy policy and terms of service, photo-sharing platform Instagram said it will not institute controversial new language tied to planned advertising services.

"There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work," said Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom. "Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010. You can see the updated terms here. Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, 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."

The Instagram policy changes, first announced Monday, would enable the platform to share user content and information such as location data, usage data and device identifiers with other Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)-owned entities. User backlash zeroed in on a section stating "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." Some users interpreted the change to mean Instagram could begin selling their images.

Instagram accepted the blame for the confusion. "I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did," Systrom said. "We don't own your photos--you do… 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."

Reuters notes the revised Instagram terms still include a mandatory arbitration clause, which is not included in terms of service for other social media giants like Twitter, YouTube or even Facebook itself. Legal experts say the clause protects Instagram from many forms of liability. The terms also retain language enabling Instagram to insert ads in conjunction with user content, adding "We may not always identify paid services, sponsored content or commercial communications as such." The updated terms are slated to go into effect on Jan. 19.

More than 100 million users across the iOS and Android platforms now use Instagram's image editing and filtering applications, with photo uploads topping 5 million per day. However, many users deleted their Instagram accounts in the hours after the company first floated its revamped policies, with services like Instaport.Me and Instabackup, which both allow consumers to create copies of their Instagram photos, reporting a higher than average volume. High-profile users like National Geographic magazine have also threatened to abandon the platform.

For more:
- read this Instagram blog entry
- read this Reuters article

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