Gaffe of the week: Instagram alienates its audience with new terms of service

Thomas Bink
Daily Buzz
Liz Claman reports from New York

Internet users are clearly a fickle bunch.

They want their content and platforms lightning-fast and absolutely free. They don't want advertising cluttering their experience and they want full privacy.

Clearly Facebook, the owners of the Instagram photo sharing service, would prefer to gloss over that last part.

Instagram was met with an avalanche of criticism after proposing changes to their terms of service earlier this week which would allow them to appropriate user photos for their own purposes. According to the new clause, that was set to take effect in mid-January:

We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organizations that help us provide the service to you ... [and] third-party advertising sponsors.

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your user name, likeness, photos, in connection with paid sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Wait a second ... does this mean that Instagram will use my content or information about me to help pay for the service they are providing me for free? The nerve! The unmitigated gall!

Yes, that's pretty much what the clause indicates. It's all part of the unfortunate reality that Facebook is dealing with in justifying its stock value now that it's a publicly-traded company and expected to create crazy, non-Internet things like "revenue" or even "profit" for shareholders.

But fear not, free Internet users, Instagram is reworking the clause.

"It was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation," wrote Kevin Systrom, one of Instagram's co-founders in a statement Tuesday. "This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing."

Right ... maybe that part about "without any compensation to you" foolishly gave users the impression that they wouldn't be compensated.

"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos," Systrom continued. "We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Well, thank goodness for that. For a second there, I thought they were going to use me to help pay for what I enjoy for free. Whew.

For modifying their terms of service in a way that miffed millions of Internet users, Instagram is awarded the Gaffe of the Week, commemorated with the statue of Rob Ford in butter.