Facebook faces a major backlash over privacy today after its photo-sharing service Instagram changed its rules to give it the right to sell users’ photographs without paying them or asking their permission.
The move gives Instagram, which Facebook acquired in April, the perpetual right to “license” all public photos that are posted online through the app, allowing the pictures to be used for commercial purposes such as advertising.
Privacy groups have condemned the move, saying that the policy shift could allow advertisers to buy young people’s photos without gaining their or their parent’s permission.
Analysts said that this could mean that people could soon appear in adverts on television or online, without their knowledge or being paid for photos that they have taken.
Instagram was acquired by Facebook in April this year, in a deal which was then worth $1billion. Facebook announced this year that it has grown to having 1 billion users worldwide, while Instagram has 100 million users.
Last night, Instagram announced its sweeping changes to privacy policies and terms of service. The changes will go into effect on January 16 2013. Photos taken before that time will not affected by the move.
Many of the changes can be seen as an effort by Facebook to more easily obtain and use information gathered by Instagram to better incorporate advertising, so that Facebook ads could easily appear with Instagram’s app.
The changes to the privacy policies means that Instagram will be able to share information about its users - such as details about bands they have seen or restaurants they have eaten at - with Facebook, as well as outside groups and advertisers. It is thought that this change will allow Facebook to be able to better target its adverts to Instagram users.
The new terms of service also state: “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.”
This means that photos published on Instagram publicly can be used in adverts without the user’s knowledge and without the person taking the photograph being paid. The only way for users to reject the changes will be to leave Instagram and delete their accounts.
Of particular worry to privacy campaigners is a stipulation that the changes effect all users regardless of their age. Under US laws, only people aged above 13 can join Instagram. Under the new rules, a teenager’s images can also be licensed for use in advertising.
Jeffrey Chester, the executive director for the Centre for Digital Democracy, a US online privacy group, told Bloomberg that the move was “exploitative” and showed that Facebook “sees teens as a digital goldmine.”
Facebook spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.
But hundreds of users left comments beneath the blog post, many expressing anger at the changes. One said: “Why do all the good companies become sell-outs, seriously. They always start out with such a good thing.” Another wrote: “ And that’s why I’ll delete my instagram account.”