Almost nobody reads the fine print on any website or online service, you hit the “Agree” button and move on your way, comfortable in the knowledge that you’ll soon be listening to the hippity hop, or snapchatting, or whatever it is the kids are doing online these days. Well, if you’re an Instagram user, it’s important to take a look at the Terms of Service that are going into effect on January 16, 2013, and it’s a reminder to take a look at the TOS for any service that has the potential to put your personal info out there (read: most free online services). What are these new terms to be aware of? Glad you asked…
In addition to some fairly normal stuff (“You agree that you are responsible for all data charges you incur through use of the Service”), and some stuff you should still be aware of (make sure to opt out of that arbitration clause!), there’s this troubling bit:
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.
What that effectively means, which shouldn’t come as a great shock to anyone who uses Google or Facebook, is that each user is a data mine for advertising revenue. What it means, that you should be upset about, is that the advertising revenue can come by using not only the pictures that you create (your copyrighted material), but also your personal information, including your username and the location data associated with your picture. By way of example, that awesome sepia-tone picture of you drunk at the bar can show up on the side bar of a stranger’s web browser with your username and location attached to it (Look how much StevenAyr enjoyed himself at XYZ bar last night, come out and enjoy our drink specials!). So that’s concerning.
They go on to say that they don’t have to let you know when they’re trying to sell you third-party stuff (“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”) which is also troubling, but less so.
The moral of this story, take a few minutes every once in a while to safeguard your privacy and think critically about the services you’re using, they’re not giving you all that techtacular freeness for nothing.