The Instagram Controversy

Recently the tech world news has been full to brimming with the proposed changes to the Instagram terms and conditions. Those who had took the time to check them, (and lets be honest, how many of us actually do?) noticed some very strange changes, the ones of most concern being those granting Instagram free licence to use your images as they see fit and to also to sell your images, royalty free, to potential advertisers.

Many people, myself included, felt that this was surely an oversight or some such, surely Instagram where not that stupid? Well within 48 hours of the initial statement and after 48 hours of community uproar Instagram issued a press release stating that the new terms and conditions had been grossly misunderstood, that it was their fault for using incomprehensible legal jargon and that they would remedy it to better show the real changes in the terms. A back pedalling manoeuvre that many expected.

I couldn't help but think further on the issue though and my thoughts lead me to some quite concerning conclusions. Normally when terms and conditions are messed with a few complain but the majority just let it slide so what firstly was different here? A fellow parent from my sons school highlighted the issue when she told me that she would still use Instagram but would no longer put images of her children on there. It became clear that the concern was because Instagram is all about images, of ourselves, our families, our lives. It is very personal.

Let us take this further. The controversy with Instagram was that people wanted to have the power to say no, the ability to control who and where their images can be viewed via a system of opting in. When you sign up for Instagram and start posting your images you have accepted their terms and conditions and therefore opted in. Keep in mind the issue there and then ponder this...

Have you ever googled yourself?

Doing so can be quite an eye opener. There you can easily find posts you have made on Twitter, links to your page on Instagram showing all your images and just about every other service online you use that is not explicitly set to private. Have you ever given permission for Google, or in fact any search engine to catalog and store all this information about you, including all your images? These search engines do not only search a page, they cache it which means they have a copy of it stored.

All this is done with no opt in, no choice, no consent. People don't react to this like they did with Instagram because it is not something most have considered, but I know I for one do not like it. I know that here on my own website I can edit a file known as robots.txt which will inform any net crawlers (the programs that crawl the internet cataloguing everything they find) that I either do not want them to catalog certain pages or I can tell them to not log my site at all, but this is the only way this can be done. For all other services you seemingly have no choice.

We should always have choice and the sweeping statement of 'well don't use those services' does not hold ground here. It is not the use of these services that is the issue, it is other non-related services logging everything that is happening in a non-consensual manner that is the issue. I have reached out to google to try and get some perspective on this and will update this post if I get a response back from them.