Tag Archives: privacy policies

Terms of Abuse? A Look Into Social Media's Fine Print

-Marissa Tomko

I feel like my answer to everything these days is “I saw it on the internet.” From the catchy “Call Me Maybe” tune to Lance Armstrong’s confessions, I am constantly scrolling through notifications, Tweets, and articles about the world around me, and what is happening at that very moment. It takes mere minutes for news to go viral, and there is never a way to tell when it will happen.

The modern-day sensation of insta-news was especially appropriate last month, when the social media company Instagram changed its “Terms of Use.” Instagram’s new policy stated that it would be able to use the photos of any Instagrammer for advertisements, or sell them to services with no obligation to notify or compensate the user. This realization sparked internet pandemonium—people were outraged at the company. Account holders threatened to delete their photo streams for good, including celebrities with large followings and National Geographic. These threats did not go unnoticed. After all, what is social media without users?

Consequently, less than a week later on December 20, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blogpost that the language surrounding the public’s issues would be removed, and that the new new policy would go into effect on January 19, 2013. Last week, an email went out reminding users that the policy will take effect on Saturday. The email was sure to remind users that they will have control over the privacy of their photos.

After all of the controversy and change, there are some that believe that while the protests of users were commanding and influential, they weren’t completely aware of the situation. In an interview with The Washington Post, Susan Scafidi, a professor of law at Fordham University, says that these were probably Instagram’s policies all along.

“The issue was never that Instagram could sell your images. The issue was that, under the ‘Terms of Use,’ they could license them to anyone, anywhere, for virtually any purpose.” Users of social media such as Instagram are unaware of what companies can actually do with their content and user data, the knowledge of which might make one wary of what they choose to do online.

Like most people, I’m probably still not going to read all of the fine print every time I purchase a new app for my phone. But I do take comfort in knowing that if something is brought to the attention of my fellow online addicts, I’ll be able to find out at the refresh of a Twitter feed. Meanwhile, I’ll just be watching the newest cat video.