Instagram: We will not sell your photos

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Instagram is responding to consumer outcry over proposed changes to its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, clarifying its intentions to roll out paid advertisements and vowing it has no plans to sell users' photos.

The Instagram policy changes, slated to take effect Jan. 16, 2013, 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."

While some users and media outlets interpreted the changes to mean Instagram would begin selling photos to its advertising partners, the firm insists that is not the case. "From the start, Instagram was created to become a business," Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said Tuesday. "Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Systrom explains that Instagram envisions a platform enabling both users and brands to increase engagement by promoting their photos and accounts. "Let's say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce--like the actions you take (e.g., following the account) and your profile photo--might show up if you are following this business."

Systrom adds that Instagram has no plans to integrate user photos into advertisements, stating "Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time." He also reiterated that users continue to own their content and retain full control over their privacy settings.

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, The New York Times reports that 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.

Copygram, which offers services for backing up Instagram accounts and ordering physical prints of favorite images, said that roughly 15 people per minute are using its exporting tool, and around half a million photographs have been copied. "It's 1000 percent more activity than we're used to," co-founder Linus Ekenstam said. "Today is crazy."

For more:
- read this Instagram blog entry
- read this Wall Street Journal article
- read this New York Times article

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