Instagram’s suicide note?

Not a lot keeps Mark Zuckerberg up at night. When he slips between his — presumably luxury — sheets, rests his head and closes his weary eyes, it’s unlikely his sleep will be disturbed by worries over his cable bill or the cost of servicing his car. As his peers toss and turn, fretting over the problems they’ll have to face the following morning, the 28 year-old billionaire drifts into a deep, satisfied sleep.

At least that’s what you might expect…

However, if you snuck into the Zuckerberg household under the cover of night (assuming you manage to evade the inevitable security) you might find the pyjama’d Zuckerberg in the kitchen; pacing back and forth as he hyperventilates into a brown paper bag, his pan of warm milk bubbling-over on the hob.

What could possibly be troubling him? Well, it’s very simple: like every other social network, Zuckerberg’s staff have one giant headache, how do they monetize their service before investors start using phrases like “return on investment”? And like every other social network, Zuckerberg’s staff have fixed their sights on the one area that may deliver the kind of revenue they need to keep surviving: advertising.

Advertising is nothing new to Facebook, they’re currently attempting to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit that alleges they made use of their users’ private data in their ‘sponsored stories’ advertising feature. Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged their interest in targeted advertising, calling ‘personal referrals’ the holy grail of advertising.

The interest in the ‘personal referral’ approach shed new light on Facebook’s surprise acquisition of Instagram — Facebook purchased Instagram for $1billion this year despite already owning a similar in-house app — when Instagram’s terms of service were updated yesterday, as follows:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

One has to wonder if the purchase of Instagram was made to limit the opt-out possibilities for Facebook’s one billion users, which would have been substantially greater had the terms only been applied to Facebook’s in-house app. Executives can’t have failed to anticipate the response the change would provoke, with many users going so far as to describe it as Instagram’s suicide note, and sites like Wired publishing instructions on how to delete your Instagram account.

It’s important to understand that Instagram isn’t claiming ownership of your intellectual property; they are asserting the right to make use of it, anywhere in the world, for the purposes of advertising third party products, without your permission and without paying you a dime.


As of January 16th 2013, expect to see photographs of the most popular kids at school, used to advertise clubs, bars and shops to the least popular. Expect to see the photographs of your girlfriend sunbathing, plastered over adverts for the local singles-scene. Expect to see photographs of your husband, advertising local bankruptcy services.

As blue_beetle stated in the oft quoted MetaFilter discussion:

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

As you lay in bed, worrying over what your friends and family, co-workers and neighbors are being sold using your ‘endorsement’, spare a thought for Mark Zuckerberg; he’ll probably be fast asleep.

Have you deleted your Instagram account as a result of their new terms? Do you trust corporations with your personal data? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Guilherme Corte-Real

    deleting account

  • htmlcut

    damn! it’s so, so pity

  • rafael armstrong

    Situations like this are the reason why my pics on places like Instagram, Path, et al, are, by and large, still lifes, landscapes and food… One less thing I need to potentially worry over.

  • Evan Skuthorpe

    Fear mongering. Having said that, I’ll be deleting my instagram photos and account as I have a real camera and lost interest in instagram ages ago…

  • Lizabeth S. Tucker

    Luckily I’ve never posted photos at either site and, based on this, I never will.

  • Rebecca Gebeshuber

    Deleted my account yesterday afternoon. Still concerned about Facebook in general, but I watch the privacy settings there closely. They tend to change without notice…

  • Ale Mello

    As soon as this absurd become a fact, I’ll leave instagram to the worms. RIP, Instagram. I’ll wait a couple of days before any move. Let’s say, ’til Christmas.

  • Mark

    Yup, I just deleted my account. I’m ok with “being the product”, as long as consequences are reasonable. These terms are unacceptable to me, so, time for a different service.

  • Jamie

    I love instagram, but I’ll be deleting it January 15th if they don’t reconsider these new terms. I’ll probably delete my facebook, too.

    • Zudden

      I won’t return even if they do change the terms. They can’t be trusted – obviuosly.

  • Jacoub Bondre

    Deleted. As an advertiser I understand that with any free or subsidized service (Whether facebook, or your favorite TV show) That there is an underlying social contract.

    In the case of most social networks, your data is sold so marketers can target you and sell to you. This is the contract, and everyone feels it is equitable.

    But this new contract is asking the user to pay a huge toll for what amounts to a filter short cut. I can apply filters in lightroom, or post-process my photos myself, I can also post them to my networks myself. And in doing so, I have control over what I am putting out in the public, and what I chose to keep private.

    Instagram filters you photo, and sends it to facebook and twitter . . . that is it, that is all it does. It saves users time. And users are not willing to give free use of their content for what amounts to a shortcut.

    We are not the product being sold, our attention and intention to purchase are the product, as that is what is of value to the Brand. If we do not buy, brand makes no money, no matter how many pictures they take from instagram.

  • Armed in the Villa

    Deleted. I felt I was overreacting, but when i actually read the whole thing, I felt it wasn’t right.

  • s4nji
    • Benjie

      When it was posted yesterday, everything here was correct. However, there has been a massive outcry and as a result Instagram are looking at revising their new terms, we’ll have to wait and see what that means in real terms.

  • MyPostcardFrom

    Love how everyone overreacts to situations like this – didn’t we have this with Facebook accounts not long back but didn’t see the hoards leaving the site.

    By posting images on the web whether it to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook you are handing them over to a third party who are, more than likely, a business trying to make money.

    If you don’t want images of yourself or family and friends, then don’t post images of them.

    Facebook introduced settings that limited what could be seen so it wouldn’t surprise me if something similar was set up on Instagram before the January deadline.

    • Benjie

      But that business doesn’t have the right to use them as they see fit. It certainly looks like Instagram will be making compromises of some sort.

  • Chris

    Everybody could just stop taking terrible pictures with their smartphones and applying filters and, oh, I don’t know… pick up a real camera?

  • Speider Schneider

    This is why I only post the most hideous and disgusting pictures of myself on Instagram. It’s sort of a “I dare you to use these.” They never have nor ever will! ;)