How Private Are Your Photos On Instagram?


In my last blog on Instagram I introduced the problem the company had in December 2012, when they briefly introduced a new privacy policy, leading to a harsh backlash from user’s as they were not in favour of their picture’s being used by Instagram in advertising and gaining revenue.

This much discontent with the new terms, at the time, just shows how protective many users are of the personal photos they are uploading. Instagram is different to Facebook in this way. People, including myself, usually select their favourite and most personal photos to be displayed on their Instagram page rather than uploading a whole array of photos like they would on their Facebook account.

In December 2012 when Instagram first brought about changes to the privacy terms it stated on its blog,

“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.” [1]

The language used confused user’s and media alike, but overall the feeling after reading these new terms was that the photos being uploaded were free to be sold to companies for advertising in order to benefit the app, without the user’s consent. People were not happy with this at all. Many complaints were made by the public and celebrities such as Pink and Emma Stone, who publically announcing their anger at the new terms. [2]

Instagram creators were quick to acknowledge this outpour of user complaints and co-founder Kevin Systrom soon took to the Instagram blog to address the issues saying,


A month later Instagram officially updated the privacy policies. The language was much clearer and simpler. It stated that Instagram was permitted to share the user’s information, from the likes of information from cookies to log files and usage data, with companies they were legally affiliated with. The advertising terms were changed to saying,

“This information [above] would allow third-party ad networks to, among other things, deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you.” [3]

Users seemed much happier with the newly worded terms. It also stated that users were still able to control what other users saw from their page. They approve followers and make their photos private, only for the eyes of their accepted followers.

I don’t have many of the privacy settings set up on my account but lots of my friends do and I know it definitely gives them peace of mind to be fully aware of who is seeing the pictures they choose to upload. Everyone is different in this sense but I certainly think it is in Instagram’s best interest not to continue changing the privacy policies. Even if the company are in need some extra revenue, I believe further changes will discourage current and potential users from using the app if they feel the company is not respecting their privacy as much as they would like it to.

~ Finola Barry

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