In a mess that could rival Apple’s Maps App debacle earlier this year, Facebook backpedaled on the new Instagram policy change. Instagram is a popular photo sharing service acquired by Facebook. According to the new policy, the service has the right to sell off the photos uploaded by the users to advertisers. If that wasn’t enough, the policy also stated that Instagram didn’t have to pay the users anything for the pictures they had sold.
Not surprisingly, people from around the world who use Instagram reacted strongly to it. The internet became the arena of choice for bashing the new policy change. Some of the industry experts and insiders also seized the moment to criticize this decision by Facebook as a cheap stunt to make more money. As expected, Instagram had to back down and withdraw the policy for now. They have claimed that it was a ‘big misunderstanding’ on their part.
As of now, the official word from Instagram is that they are going to go ahead with the policy change but will revise the language used to describe it. The policy is going to be implemented at the beginning of 2013 so they have only a few days in which to make the revision. What is quite surprising is that Instagram is still going to implement the policy. They have a tough job on their hands convincing users that the policy does not exploit them.
The co-founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom tried to diffuse the situation. On the service’s official blog, Systrom said that the language of the policy was the cause of the confusion. He also claimed that the service has absolutely no intentions of selling the photos which have been uploaded by users from all over the world. He commented that they are working on changing the language used and have removed the section from the terms & conditions which caused the furor.
At the same time, one should not forget the scale of the issue. People from all over the world, including some well-known people and celebrities had expressed their distaste for the new policy. Yet, Instagram thought that none of their august officials should step forward and apologize in public for it. A blog post is perhaps the most convenient option as they didn’t have to face anyone. The Apple CEO had issued a public apology after the maps mess earlier this year.
The blog post further clarified what the service is going to do. They are going to take the user photos and actions performed by the users to create ads for businesses. This is similar to what happens on Facebook when a page you like shows up in your friends’ sidebar. It is a means of promoting the business for which the service will receive cash from the business. The bottom-line is that Instagram may not be selling the photos directly but is going to make money off them.
With the outrage the policy change has caused, it would have been more appropriate for Kevin Systrom to come on TV and apologize. The users are not going to be satisfied with a blog post.