Instagate: The real issue


In case you hadn’t heard, this week Facebook-owned photo sharing site Instagram changed its terms of service, causing widespread outcry. A clause giving the company permission to use members’ photos in advertisements or sponsored stories caused quite an uproar, with what seems like many people talking about voting with their feet and leaving the service.




It seemed some may have mis-read the terms, and in their clarifying statement Instagram explained that they were aiming at sponsored stories showing your photos to friends in new ways rather than publicly displaying your photos on advertisements outside of the service. For others, it was more about such (widely unread) T&Cs creeping further away from the rights of users… especially in the context of Facebook’s strategy of taking two steps forward and one back in order to keep their terms ever moving towards increased sharing, which is well documented in David Kirkpatrick’s chronicle of the early development of the service.

“I’m tired of contributing to the commodification of my own existence”

Matt Honan- Wired


User privacy and how free web services monetize themselves (or even simply make them selves sustainable) are both interesting issues. However, with this coming only a few weeks after a widespread hoax meme about the intellectual property of users sweeping Facebook, I think my friend Alasdair hit the nail on the head with what the real issue is around ‘Instagate’….


If people got as worked up over employment contracts as over social media T&Cs, the world would be a much better place. #instagram

— Alasdair (@ralasdair) December 18, 2012


It’s easy to bemoan the seeming mis match of priorities here, but what an opportunity for learning. What we have here is a mass engagement in the issues of contracts, rights and copyright; issues which quite often people don’t see as interesting, or even relevant. It might seem frivolous to be debating such issues instead of the rather more important ones relating to contracts and rights, but if this serves as a provocation to get more people interested in such things then it could have quite an impact.

If I was a secondary teacher I would be jumping on these issues as a way in to helping young people become more aware of the issues of contracts, how to interpret ‘legalese’, and the importance of understanding (and standing up for) their rights. Who would have thought an app to deliberately distort and share your camera phone snaps could bring the discussion of such issues to the table?

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1 thought on “Instagate: The real issue”

  1. Great post, Oliver — thanks. This is a great opportunity for learning and I certainly will be discussing it with my students early next term in the context of copyright, privacy and rights. The whole issue was a great reminder, too, not just of these issues, but of the importance of being agile learners and users of web apps. As users of “free” applications there are no guarantees (e.g. Delicious, et al). Yet another strand of digital literacy… 🙂

    Brian Kelly’s post also very interesting on this issue:

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