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Instagram’s user-terms update

If Instagram’s as popular among high school students in your community as it is at ours, you’ll probably be interested in the implications of its latest privacy updates. When it announced that it was updating its Terms of Use and the New York Times noticed the update included the addition of advertising, a lot of users (and reporters) apparently got the idea that Instagram would be using users’ photos to sell ads without compensating users. Here’s what happened, according to USATODAY, the upshot being that Instagram is now updating its update. In a blog post, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom wrote that what the service, acquired by Facebook earlier this year, was trying to convey in its first update was that they’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.” The changes certainly have a lot to do with advertising revenue, no question – businesses are generally designed to make money (and Instagram, now with 100 million+ users, is no longer a startup) – so how is that best done in social media? How is it best done so far, anyway, as services are very much still learning how to maximize revenue without angering users (while users and everybody else are still believing the worst) and figuring out how to strike the right balance between relevance (my friend likes this brand or product, so maybe I should) and creepiness (this service “knows” too much about me)?

A lot of this is about helping to increase the value to businesses, like National Geographic – mentioned by USATODAY as having 640,000 followers in Instagram – of using Instagram. “We envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following,” writes CEO Kevin Systrom. That’s where relevance (to the average user) comes in: “In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow [or your kid follows] also follows this business. In this way, some of the data [your kid] produce[s] – [like his/her following of National Geographic or his/her] profile photo – might show up [in association with National Geo] if you are following this business. Systrom also writes that Instagram has no plans to associate any user photos (besides their profile photo) with brands or products being advertised and has not made any changes to users’ privacy controls.

As far as ownership goes, he wrote: “We respect that your photos are your photos. Period.” I feel we can trust these statements because of the high cost to a high-profile social media company, whose “product” is really the content of its users’ lives, of not delivering on its promises.

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