What did you just agree to?
There are countless reasons why people do not fully read over these legally binding contracts, but to put it simply, they are too long and too boring. Most of the legal jargon only serves to confuse users. Plus, if millions of people are using Instagram already, their contract can’t be that threatening, right?
Licensing and privacy policies
Regarding Instagram’s Terms of Service, he focuses mainly on the licensing section. In one very long sentence, the service describes how it does not own any of your content, but can license your photos and sell them to third party and reap all of the benefits. Essentially, this means you never get paid even though it is your content.
You do have to the option to license and sell your photos as well, but do you really think you have more connections than Instagram?
By now, you should be aware that social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook use the content that you post to sell to advertisers. This is how they make their money. The content and photos you post can be very telling. Cookies tracking your browser history can be shared with “third-party advertisers” that now have the ability to offer you hyper-relevant items.
If you think sharing your personal information violates your privacy, you may not be so comfortable with the next policy. Instagram is under no obligation to make your information anonymous. Though they have the option to remove individual identifiers or combine information to help protect your privacy, the terms are written ambiguously.
The key word they use is “may.” They “may remove parts of your data” and “may combine your information,” but legally they do not have to do this. Remsen puts it quite clearly: “If (Instagram) suddenly decided to stop and just straight-up sell all your personal info to advertisers, (1) they would be perfectly within their legal rights, and (2) you would probably never know about it.”
After you delete
So if you feel like you’ve heard enough already, you do have the option to delete your account. However, this does not mean Instagram will lose access to the content you already posted.
Under the General Conditions section of their User Terms, your photos and posts “may still appear within the service” even after you deactivate your account.
This refers specifically to situations when your photos have been embedded within other websites. Facebook, who owns Instagram, shares a similar policy. They call it “resharing” which essentially makes the content public instead of private.
What can you do?
With a deeper understanding of the policies that are so often overlooked, you may be ready to swear off all social media accounts. However, where does this leave you when so much of online marketing and communication relies on using Instagram and Facebook? You do have a few options.
In order to retain complete control over your photos, don’t share them. Or at least, only share photos if you do not mind them being licensed, sold, or reshared. More realistic options include adding a watermark, or uploading lesser quality images.
The most important concept to take away is simply to be more aware.
Try not to scan through User Agreements in seconds. Ask questions if you do not understand the policies. Be in control of your online content.