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Instagram users in uproar over plans to sell their pics

Coming changes to Instagram's Terms of Use has ignited a backlash

Instagram has alerted its users to a change in its Terms of Use policy, and users are in an uproar about it.

The popular photo-sharing app, which was recently acquired Facebook, said in its new policy that it has the option to license users' photos and sell them to advertisers or other companies.

"Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service," the company says in its new Terms of Use . "Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service's Privacy Policy, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/."

Another part of the Terms of Use concerns advertising: "Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue," the company writes. "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."

The changes have a lot of users complaining and threatening to stop using the Instagram service. Twitter lit up with Instagram complaints and jokes.

"That's it! I'm raising my middle finger in each photo I take with Instagram, let's see how they're gonna sell that! #BoycottInstagram," tweeted @MenHumor.

@iamBenLyons tweeted, "Bye Bye Instagram. We hardly knew you. What's next?" while @everywhereist tweeted, "Oh no! That sepia toned photo of last week's sushi dinner has fallen into the wrong hands!"

Instagram did not respond to a request for comment.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said Instagram's policy change is causing a big enough flap to create a problem for the company.

"I hope this really is a user revolt," he said. "It is pretty revolting, but Facebook has gotten away with serial violations of privacy in the past. But maybe selling your photographs is a bridge too far."

He added that this has become a big issue because it deals with users' property rights, rather than privacy rights.

"'I'm afraid most Facebook users don't care much about privacy, but apparently, they care about property," he noted. "I like this because it reminds people that their content has value."

Facebook, which now owns Instagram, certainly has seen its share of privacy flaps. Users repeatedly have threatened to stop using Facebook over one privacy issue or another but the company still remains the largest social network in the world, by far.

Will these user complaints actually cause real trouble for Instagram? Gottheil said they might.

Noting that the pictures might not carry much value, Instagram may not want to fight this out with its users.

"I hope it makes them pay more attention to Terms of Use and privacy issues," he said. "Facebook, I think, would actually benefit from being more careful with their users' data."

Instagram's policy changes are set to go into effect Jan. 16.

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

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