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Instagram: ‘We have no plans to sell your photos’

Following a wave of user backlash, Instagram says that it will edit its updated terms of service and privacy policy to better clarify what it will and will not do with users’ photos.

In a blog post, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said that interpretations that the company reserves the right to sell users’ photos are not true. Systrom also says that Instagram does not “have plans” to turn user photos into parts of advertisements, and that it will “remove the language that raised the question” about what its terms of service really mean.

“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram,” wrote Systrom. “Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

The portion of the Instagram terms of service that caused the most “confusion” currently reads: “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 associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

This language, Systrom says, was merely intended to give Instagram the flexibility “to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram.” He also says that the company hopes to make it possible for both users and brands to “promote their photos and accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following.”

“Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience,” writes Systrom. “Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.”

Systrom further reiterates that “Instagram users own their content,” Instagram does not; and the photo-sharing service’s privacy settings have not changed. “If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you,” he writes.

While the current drafts of the Instagram terms of service and privacy policy remain, Systrom says that updates to these documents will be “coming soon.”

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