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New Terms Of Service And Privacy Policies Go Live At Instagram

On Friday, Instagram sent this letter to its users:

From: Instagram (no-reply@instagram.com)
Subject: Instagram Update
Date: January 18, 2013

Hello,

Our community has grown by many millions of people since we wrote our original Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. As we announced in December, we have updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. These policies also now take into account the feedback we received from the Instagram Community. We're emailing you to remind you that, as we announced last month, these updated policies will be in effect as of January 19th, 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.

Thank you,
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.
2. Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.
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:

"Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. 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, subject to the Service's Privacy Policy, available here http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/, including but not limited to sections 3 ("Sharing of Your Information"), 4 ("How We Store Your Information"), and 5 ("Your Choices About Your Information")... You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such... Content removed from the [Instagram] Service may continue to be stored by Instagram, including, without limitation, in order to comply with certain legal obligations, but may not be retrievable without a valid court order... Except as otherwise described in the Service's Privacy Policy, available at http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/, as between you and Instagram, any Content will be non-confidential and non-proprietary and we will not be liable for any use or disclosure of Content. You acknowledge and agree that your relationship with Instagram is not a confidential, fiduciary, or other type of special relationship, and that your decision to submit any Content does not place Instagram in a position that is any different from the position held by members of the general public, including with regard to your Content."

Some interesting sections from the new Privacy Policy:

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:
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.

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