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January 2013

Instagram privacy changes set for January 19th

The significant changes to Instagram’s terms of service are scheduled to come into effect this week.

As of January 19th, the photo-sharing and filtering service will be able to sell photographs and related data uploaded by its users to third parties after its parent company Facebook announced its controversial changes last month.

When the alterations were unveiled in December, there was a widespread revolt among Instagram users, with many people deciding to close their account with the service instead of facing the prospect of having what they see as their own property sold to a third party.

Indeed, a report by Reuters shortly after the announcement noted that Instagram had lost around 25 per cent of its daily active users as a direct result of the changes.

This backlash has led to a lively debate among lawyers as to whether or not Facebook and Instagram are breaching the privacy rights of their subscribers. Jeremy Clarke-Williams of Slater & Gordon Lawyers said: “Your Article 8 rights are engaged if you can satisfy a court that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to an alleged breach. But where you have chosen to put your photos on Facebook/Instagram can you realistically have such an expectation? How wide does publication have to be before it can be deemed to have put material into the public domain? These are interesting legal questions, but one suspects the anger generated by this issue is less about privacy and more about the stark reminder that the social media sites are businesses and they have to find ways to make money out of their users”

In a statement on its website, Instagram explained that by being acquired by the social media giant in September last year, it would be able to provide an improved level of service for its users following extensive consultations.

“As part of our new collaboration, we’ve learned that by being able to share insights and information with each other, we can build better experiences for our users,” the company noted.

With this in mind, Instagram has updated its privacy policy to highlight the details of its new collaboration with Facebook, telling its users: “You still get to choose who can see your Instagram photos and you still get to choose whether you post your photos on Facebook.”

The company went on to insist that while it is now working closely with Facebook to find ways in which it can update and innovate its service, it is not “changing the core features of the app” that millions of people across the world currently use.

Its official privacy policy states: “We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organisations that help us provide the service to you … [and] third-party advertising partners.”

After Facebook announced the alterations to the way in which Instagram operates, the photo and content-sharing platform defended the changes and insisted they will actually improve the user experience of its site.

In a statement, the company noted: “This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.”


Jonathan Gordon is a freelance copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, including a number of specialist professional negligence solicitors.