Instagram CEO Hears the Uproar Over Photos-For-Ads, Vows to Fix and Clarify ToS and Privacy Policy

Instagram CEO and Co-Founder Kevin Systrom (pictured) dealt with a bad misfire by penning a blog post with a perfect title: “Thank you, and we’re listening”. The company made waves, to say the least, by altering its terms of service and privacy policy this week to make it seem as though Instagram was planning to sell users’ photos for use in advertising. There’s nothing left for Instagram to do but backpedal on any new policies that users are angry about and clarify any misconceptions about what Instagram is actually planning to do.

Regarding the use of photos in advertising, Systrom wrote that Instagram never intended to sell users’ photos, but that “Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram.” What Instagram is planning to do instead is to leverage its service so that “both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following.”

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom (Image credit: Reuters)

It sounds like Instagram is hoping to do what Facebook has done with its Sponsored Stories, which is to track your behavior and use that data to allow business and brands to promote themselves. At this point, many users have made peace with the fact that this sort of tracking is part of the deal with free services like Facebook, but as we’ve said before, there’s a huge difference between having your likes exploited versus your pictures (be they works of art or just treasured family photos).

Fortunately, Systrom and Co. now appear to understand that difference, and he stated bluntly that because Instagram never intended to use actual photos in ads (only “follows” and profile pics), they would take out that language altogether.

Instagram screenshot

Systrom also reiterated that users do indeed own their own content, and he said that the company would work hard to get back in the user community’s good graces and that users can still set photos to “private” so only approved parties can see your photos.

It remains to be seen what exactly Instagram is going to do here--they now have to revisit the whole of the ToS and enact heavy revisions--but it’s apparent that the company is going out of its way to appease the masses, which is a good sign.