Instagram backs off new policies that would have allowed commercial sale of users’ pics

Well that was quick.

From CNN Money’s Instagram says it won’t sell your photos to advertisers:

One day after Instagram sent its users into a panic with a rule change that would have allowed it to sell users’ photos to advertisers, the company backtracked, saying that sweeping change wasn’t what it intended.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean,” Instagram wrote in a blog post on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”

Instagram’s new terms of use, slated to take effect January 16, are littered with changes, especially in the section about users’ rights. “A business or other entity may pay” Instagram to display users’ photos and other details “in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

That’s an overstatement, Instagram said Tuesday.

“To be clear: It is not our intention to sell your photos,” the company said. “We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

From that Instagram blog post, Thank you, and we’re listening:

Advertising is one of many ways that Instagram can become a self-sustaining business, but not the only one. Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’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. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

To provide context, 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. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo — might show up if you are following this business.

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.

I’m not an Instagram user — not yet, anyway — but I’m not entirely reassured by the waffling language here of “not our intention” and “we’re going to remove the language that raised the question”.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, Instagram’s attempt to become a profitable business, and the rapid changes of social media platforms sort themselves out. This is clearly another big test for Facebook.