You may have gotten wind of today’s breaking news that Instagram, now owned by Facebook, has changed their user Terms of Service. And the Internets she is not happy. Here’s the scoop, and a few options on what you can do about your account, should choose to address it.

As of January 16, the new Instagram Terms of Service will include the following:

[under “Rights” sec 2]
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.

The way we see it, the notion that you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos wiithout any compensation to you is hugely problematic. In part because it’s so vague.

Does that mean they can take a private photo of your children, smack a formula label on it, and turn it into an ad? Does it mean that your intellectual property is no longer your own? Does it mean, as with Facebook’s “sponsored stories” that you can become an unwitting (and unpaid) endorser for a product with your name and likeness being put to use by brands that you have followed or engaged with?

(A tactic by the way, that backfired on Facebook when they settled in a $20m class action suit about it just last week.)

We’re troubled–but not panicking yet. There’s still time, and of course pressure from the public, before January 16. However if these TOS do go into effect, here are some choices for you:

1. Make your Instagram account private
From what we can tell, photos in private, locked accounts are not subject to this same provision. On the other hand, this turns Instagram less into a viable social networking venue, and more of a private place to connect with a select group. It also may not protect you if you step out of the cone of safety and engage with a brand on Instagram.

2. Reconsider the personal photos that you share.
Maybe pretty pictures of the NYC skyline will be less troubling than pretty pictures of your newborn baby being disseminated. That would kind of suck, but we get it.

Twitter Photo Filters

3. Start moving your photo-sharing to Twitter
With the recent introduction of Twitter photo filters, we wouldn’t be surprised if more Twitter users start migrating their photo networking there as well; which also cuts down on the accounts you manage daily. You can still use apps like Snapseed (now free for a limited time!) to make your photos gorgeous too, wherever you share them. Or hey–remember Hipstamatic? It’s still good!


4. Shut your Instagram account in protest
Drastic? Sure. But if you’re considering this option, at least first consider saving all your Instagram photos in your phone if they are not saved automatically (see below) and possibly printing them in a photo book like the ones from Keepsy.

instagram settings

Your filtered photos (or originals you take through the app) are not automatically saved to your library. It’s a preference in your settings, at bottom.

iWatermark app

5. Add a watermark to your photos
One way to minimize your photo use/misuse potential is to add a watermark. Especially if you’re a professional photographer and this is your livelihood. Try apps like iWatermark for iOS ($1.99, iTunes shown above), or eZy Watermark lite for iOS (free, iTunes). You can also use Lightroom or iPhoto.

6. Sit tight
You can take a wait and see attitude–this may be clarified, changed, or nothing particularly heinous at all by January 16. A month is a long time.

Hey, we get it–Instagram has to make money somehow and Facebook needs to monetize it to justify the investment. But turning users into unpaid endorsers? Isn’t there aaaaanything else at all that might be a little less dubious in nature?

We’ve emailed Instagram for comment and have yet to hear from them, but we’ll update if any new news comes to light. –Liz

See the Instagram Updated Terms of Service here. And for other info about Instagram’s recent updates visit this post.

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