Freedom of Photography

Instagram scares users with news that it could have all rights to users’ photographs

Last month there was a surge of uproar from many individuals around the world because of a major controversial issue. One of the basic rights of people had been breached. There’s a new idea of freedom of speech, “freedom of photography.” Instead of print, people are turning to a new way of expression with photographs. Ever since the whole wave of social networking took off, photos also started to skyrocket. What better way is there to let others know what one is doing than to show them. One of the leading social networking sites and photo sharing sites, Instagram, came close to putting a halt to people continuing to use photo sharing as a way communicating with friends by attempting to change their privacy policy.

What if one day you were just sitting by the television relaxing and up pops a picture of you that you took and shared with your friends on Instagram, though now it suddenly appears in a commercial without you knowing? That was essentially what the site was planning on doing. By changing a some of the language in its policy, Instagram would have the rights to every picture you had ever taken and shared on their website.

Since being bought out by Facebook in early April 2012 for about $1 billion, the site has gone through many changes already. None of those really affected its users directly until this big change with its privacy policy in mid December 2012. The new adjusted policy stated that the site had the perpetual right to sell user’s photographs without payment or notification. Which means that the site could sell any photo that you take to any business that wants to use it for any reason without notifying its users or paying them any amount. Instagram could also share your information with Facebook and their ad network making it easier for advertisers to better target users since they would get information like favorite places, bands, stores, restaurants, hobbies or any other personal information. This was the change that caused a major public outcry, and after upsetting so many users, Instagram backed out and said it would remove the language that caused the user revolt.

“It wouldn’t be a big deal for me. I would want credit, not money,” senior Jay Morales said.

“I would hate for that to happen because I share what I want with my friends, and I don’t think it’s right for them to be able to claim what I put work and effort into doing as their own and using it however they want without letting anyone know about it”, senior Chandal Geerdes said.

This change was supposed to take effect on Jan. 16, and the only way for users to get out of it was to delete their accounts before Jan. 16 or else they couldn’t opt out. Since the new policy consisted of selling photos of everyday people and having them appear anywhere without consent, it could have broken state privacy laws if pictures of children were used without parents knowing.

“I don’t like the fact that if I ever wanted to delete my account they could still have access and be able to use my photos,” junior Alyssa Vuong said.

“I would still keep my account with Instagram because I like it so much, but I wouldn’t be alright with what it’s doing. It doesn’t bother me too much, but I know it would upset others,” Morales said.

Underage users wouldn’t be exempt from this exploitation either. Even if a user or a person in a photo is underage, the pictures could still be sold and used in advertisements. Because of all the lawsuits that could have happened due to the changes, Instagram also added a section in the privacy policy that immunizes it from liability if it had made the private photos public. It stressed that point twice when writing “we will not be liable for any use or disclosure of content” and “Instagram will not be liable for any use or disclosure of any content you provide.” In another addition they added “you acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.” That conflicts with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines that say advertisements should be listed as advertisements.

The very next day on Dec. 18, 2012, Instagram apologized to its users, saying it would “remove” language from its legal terms that would have let it sell users’ photos or use them in advertisements. So it should be back to normal and function the way it was before with so many satisfied users.

“I’m glad that they changed it back to the way before. I still would have probably kept my account, but I feel better now that they can’t just do whatever they want with my pictures. I really like Instagram though with its filters and being able to upload any picture whenever,” Vuong said.

“I’m relieved that they decided not to do that. I wouldn’t want anything done with my pictures without me knowing, but other than that, I really like Instagram,” Geerdes said.

“I like it [Instagram] because I can share cool pictures and look at my friends pictures,” Morales said.


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