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Lawyer breaks down Instagram’s new insanely invasive privacy policies

(SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS) Most thought Instagram’s new privacy policies were pretty boilerplate. Until a lawyer took a crack at the deeply legalistic wording…

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What did you just agree to?

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you may be one of the 500 million users on Instagram. If I am right, I am also guessing you bypassed reading the extensive Terms of Use and Privacy Policy Agreements before setting up your account. Well, you’re not alone.

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?

Adam Remsen of Petapixel took a closer look into Instagram’s Terms of Use to help sort through the clutter. What you overlooked may surprise you.

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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?

Moving on, Remsen turns to Instagram’s Privacy Policy.

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.

#Instagram

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Social Media

Tiktok: Did they really just censor disabled users?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok was concerned about disabled users being bullied so in a stunning reversal, they limited those users visibility on the app. Yikes.

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TikTok, the popular social media platform where users upload short, often silly or light-hearted, videos is coming under fire this week. Internal moderation documents acquired by the German digital rights blog, Netzpolitik.org, show that TikTok has been discriminating against users who are disabled, queer, and fat.

According to these documents, TikTok instructed moderators to tag any content created by so-called, “special users.” The “special users” tag refers to users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition.”

The idea behind the tag was to provide these “special users” with protection from cyber bullying and online harassment. This was achieved by limiting the visibility of these user’s content. Videos with this tag had their viewership limited to the user’s country of origin and were prevented from being featured on the “for you” section of the app.

To make matters even worse, moderators only had about 30 seconds to make the decision to flag a video or not. Imagine looking at a complete stranger for less than a minute and having to decide if they fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Now, imagine doing that with only a 15 second video for reference.

Sources inside TikTok say that moderators complained about this policy multiple times, but their concerns were ignored. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the tag system was meant to be a temporary solution.

“This was never designed to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend until our teams and user-facing controls could keep up.”

Point blank, TikTok discriminated against users based on their physical appearance and perceived disabilities. They denied these users a fair opportunity on their app by limiting the visibility of their content therefor preventing them from growing their audiences.

In their statement about the moderation policy, TikTok’s spokesperson asserts that the policy is no longer in effect.

“While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.”

Owning up to their mistake is a good start, but a simple ‘our bad y’all’ is not good enough. When a company currently estimated to be worth 75 billion dollars admits to blatant discrimination against its users, there need to be some reparations.

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Facebook is finally allowing you to use your data freely, kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is taking baby steps to improve data portability with new photo transfer tool. They are working with google, twitter, and microsoft to make it work

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Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to transfer their photos directly to Google Photos. The product is rolling out in Ireland first for some beta testing, but set to launch globally in the first half of 2020. At first glance this may seem like a mundane new tool, but it is just one thread in a complex web of legal and social change related to users’ right to their own data.

The true heart of this story is the ongoing issue of data portability. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft are all part of the Data Transfer Project which aims to create data portability. Data portability refers to an individual users’ right to control their own data on the web, which includes the right to download and transfer their data to different services. The hope is that a seamless flow of data will create a more authentic sense of competition.

In their statement about the new product, Facebook reiterates this belief by stating, “we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. That’s the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation.”

Being able to seamlessly transfer your photos from Facebook to any outside platform is a big step for a company that has spent most of the year in anti-trust investigations.

The photo transfer tool will be helpful to some users, but is it a genuine step towards breaking up the Facebook data monopoly? After all, Google has also gone through anti-trust investigations this year, so perhaps more open competition between two of the largest software companies on the globe is not exactly what legislators had in mind.

It’s nearly impossible to read whether Facebook’s attempts to improve global data portability are sincere or just an elaborate effort to keep governments off their bottom line. There is an argument to made about whether or not corporations can ever be sincere, but that is a story for a different day.

The best thing everyday users can do to protect their data right now is to stay informed and keep asking questions.

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Social Media

‘Secret sister’ gift exchanges are not just lame, they’re ILLEGAL – tell your friends

(SOCIAL MEDIA) There’s a new gift giving program spread on Facebook but you may be giving more than gifts. Secret Sister is actually an illegal MLM that gives away your identity.

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‘Tis the season for Christmas themed pyramid schemes! No, we’re not talking about your favorite MLM adding some holiday flair (though that’s probably happening too), this is something more sinister: Secret Sister gift exchanges.

Not to be confused with Secret Santa (the anonymous gift exchange among friends), Secret Sister exchanges promises the impossible: buy one gift for a stranger, get upwards of 36 gifts in return. It might sound like a Christmas miracle, but it’s actually classified as a pyramid scheme… and gambling, to boot.

Not to mention, it’s definitely illegal, hun.

Circulated primarily on Facebook and targeted mostly at women, Secret Sister exchanges have been running since 2015, according to Snopes. Users are invited to join and invite up to six friends to participate too. Like all pyramid schemes, the further down the ladder you are, the less likely you are to receive many (if any!) gifts in return.

That’s the best case scenario.

Not only are you bothering your friends and potentially gaining nothing (or little) in return, you’re also at risk of identity theft when you participate in a secret sister exchange. Why? Well, most of these schemes involve users submitting important personal information such as phone number and home address, which aren’t the sorts of things you want falling into the hands of total strangers.

These “Secret Sister” gift exchanges might also go by other fun, festive names. For instance, one scam focused on “wine drinkers” and encouraged participants to purchase bottles of wine. But a pyramid scheme by any other name is still a massive waste of time and money.

A good rule of thumb? If something is offering amazing results for a fraction of the cost (like 36 gifts for the price of one), be wary. That’s the same promise you’ll get at a slot machine – and that’s less likely to steal your identity after you’ve lost money.

Not to sound like a PSA, but if you or anyone you know seems to be caught up in a secret sister gift exchange, get out! It shouldn’t be the season of law-breaking and identity theft. And if that $10 is burning a hole in your pocket, there’s plenty of ways to find some holiday cheer. Donate to a local charity, buy a gift for a coworker, maybe even treat yourself!

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