The Instagram Wake Up Call

I set up the blog nearly six years ago so that Raelene and I could share details of our life with family and friends, and more importantly share our photos. It would have been easy to use a photo sharing service like Picassa or Flickr, but I didn’t trust Google, Yahoo!, or any for-profit corporation with custodianship of our images. Once your images are on their servers, they can do pretty much anything they want with them. Everything here, while publicly available, is at least theoretically protected by copyright laws.

Then Raelene and I started using Facebook, which made it easy to share with friends and family. So share we did, and the more we shared the easier it was to share. And why not? Writing blog posts takes time, and uploading photos from the camera to an online gallery was (and still is) a several hour project. Uploading an image from your phone takes seconds, and people can start commenting on how yummy your dinner looks before you start eating. There’s also no guarantee anyone will see your blog post or photos, but on Facebook feedback is almost instant. So, seduced by the dark side, we sort of abandoned the idea of maintaing control of our content and started posting it sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Instagram.

In case you don’t know, Instagram is a hip photo sharing service that makes it easy to give your blurry and mediocre camera phone images a retro look and share them with the world. Yesterday Instagram updated their terms and conditions, and part of the update was language that allowed them to sell user uploaded photos without notification or consent. This meant that any of the pictures of Corinne that Raelene or I have uploaded to Instagram could be sold to an advertiser and used in an ad, and the only way we would know about it is if one of us saw the ad. The only way to stop Instagram from being able to sell your photos is to delete your account.

I do understand the price of free, and that if you’re not the customer you’re the product. But there’s a line, and Instagram shot past that line in a jet powered monkey navigated hovercraft screaming across the salt flats. I expect my data to be aggregated by Facebook and Google, and then used to target me with ads. I understand that, and when I post to Facebook I know that is what is going to happen. What I’m not okay with is a bait and switch after I start using a service that allows my child’s face to incorporated into a McDonalds ad.

I’m not the only person upset by this. The past 24 hours have been a Netflix sized PR nightmare for Instagram and it’s parent company Facebook, and Instagram has since agreed to update the wording in their terms and conditions. For me, though, it’s a keen reminder of why I created this website in the first place. I have deleted my Instagram account, and I am going to be sharing far fewer photos on Facebook as well. I am also looking into a way to easily share images on Facebook and Twitter while hosting them here.

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