Instagram Needs You More Than You Need Instagram

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I told you so.

Back in April, went it was announced that Facebook was buying Instagram for $1B, many of the digerati warned that the internet giant was making the purchase to take the content and information of users to sell.

This week, with an updated Terms of Service for Instagram announced, the prediction came true. Never mind the Mayans, you have to watch Zuckerberg.

Andy Ihnatko: “Once again it bears repeating that an agreement with any tech company for any service — free or paid — is no different from an agreement with any other kind of madman. At best, they’re going to stick to the original terms. But it’s likely that at any point, they’re going to alter your deal…and it’ll never ever be altered to tilt things in your favor.”

Wired: “The bottom line is that Instagram is reserving the right to use your photos as it sees fit, without permission or even notification, in advertisements and promotions. It hasn’t said it owns them, or that it will do that – it just can.”

CNN: “Hammering the point home, Instagram changed the current language about users granting a “limited license” for use of their content. The new terms make it a “sub-licensable” agreement, again making it clear that Instagram can give content to third parties. It could, for instance, let a major retail chain buy Instagram photos of people shopping in their stores to run in an ad.”

After the backlash came the echo of people saying the collective angst of the internet was overblown.

Well let me ask you this: if you have a choice between Company A and Company B for providing similar services that are free, and Company A says it wants license to your work to use for ads that it may, or may not tell you about, while Company B doesn’t ask for that license, and lets you control your content – which would you choose?

I recently had content go viral. More than 3 million people have viewed my video of the Calgary Hitmen Teddy Bear Toss. I have a licensing agreement (as anyone can) with YouTube to monetize my videos. When ads are placed on or around my content, we share the revenue. Win/win. Facebook‘s idea of making money does not involve sharing revenue with users. Win for them, lose for you.

I know first hand what happens when you sign off rights to content to a third party. I entered my son’s photo in a Cheerios contest. He lost the original contest, but General Mills retained rights to the image and are now using him as the face of a national campaign in the spring. Total compensation to me? Bragging rights and a few boxes of Cheerios. Totally within the rules, not necessarily totally “fair.”

Instagram needs your images and metadata and geotagging information to feed the Facebook beast. Facebook wants to know every. single. little. thing. about you. The more it knows about you the better it can not only sell to you, but the higher the asking price for you. Facebook‘s game is to use user’s information and content to sell to advertisers and to target advertising at users. I have no problem leaving a breadcrumb to be better targeted, I have a problem when my content becomes a part of the ad.

Instagram needs you, you don’t need Instagram.

If you like social networks based around images, use Flickr. It will even let you do all the filter-y things that you could on Instagram. If all you like is to take artsy photos of mundane things, use Camera+, it will even let you push the content to Facebook and Twitter to inundate your friends with pictures of sidewalks, signs, and cats.

It’s hard to quit Facebook because it has 1B users, and everyone you know and love is there feeding the beast, I get that. It’s easy to quit Instagram because so many other places want to give you the same stuff that Instagram gives without all the icky strings.

I quit Instagram yesterday. Nuked the entire thing and I’m not looking back. I don’t even miss it, you won’t either.

Here is a segment I did for Global Calgary on the new Terms of Service:

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