On Friday, Instagram sent this letter to its users:
From: Instagram (email@example.com)
Subject: Instagram Update
Date: January 18, 2013
You can read our blog post that highlights some of the key updates. And remember, these updates don't change the fact that you own your photos that you post on Instagram, and our privacy controls work just as they did before.
The Instagram Team
The Instagram blog summaried the changes in its new policies:
"1. Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.
3. Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.
In its blog post, Instagram reassures users that users own their photographs. While that is good, the bigger question is exactly what data dlements are collected, retained, manipulated, and shared? Some relevant portions from the new Terms of Service:
INFORMATION WE COLLECT
We collect the following types of information.
Information you provide us directly:
1. Your username, password and e-mail address when you register for an Instagram account.
2. Profile information that you provide for your user profile (e.g., first and last name, picture, phone number). This information allows us to help you or others be "found" on Instagram.
3. User Content (e.g., photos, comments, and other materials) that you post to the Service.
4. Communications between you and Instagram. For example, we may send you Service-related emails (e.g., account verification, changes/updates to features of the Service, technical and security notices). Note that you may not opt out of Service-related e-mails."
Metadata is usually technical data that is associated with User Content. For example, Metadata can describe how, when and by whom a piece of User Content was collected and how that content is formatted. Users can add or may have Metadata added to their User Content including a hashtag (e.g., to mark keywords when you post a photo), geotag (e.g., to mark your location to a photo), comments or other data. This makes your User Content more searchable by others and more interactive. If you geotag your photo or tag your photo using other's APIs then, your latitude and longitude will be stored with the photo and searchable (e.g., through a location or map feature) if your photo is made public by you in accordance with your privacy settings."
"We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners. This information would allow third-party ad networks to, among other things, deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you... We may remove parts of data that can identify you and share anonymized data with other parties. We may also combine your information with other information in a way that it is no longer associated with you and share that aggregated information."
The new policy does not seem to mention exactly how Instagram may manipulate (e.g., add, delete, merge) the metadata attached to your photographs with other data elements (e.g., mobile geolocation data). That is important to know given a recent lawsuit about alleged unannounced and unauthorized data collection, retention, and tracking involving its mobile apps.
The information in this blog post is not legal advice. If you are concerned about the new policies, get legal advice from an attorney. I am not an attorney.