It’s impossible to dive into this topic without giving credit where credit is due, so I start with a nod to my great friends at Cool Mom Tech, who reminded me again of the importance of this issue with a post published on Instagram privacy and how important it is to talk with your kids about what they share on Instagram. If you’re a parent of a kid—of any age—using the internet, there is no better resource than the Cool Mom team. Start with this post: 8 Shocking statistics about kids and online behavior that will make you want to have another tech talk now and then check out the links at the bottom of the article. That’s one internet rabbit hole you’ll be glad to have been sucked into. Because kids? They’re dumb. And keeping them safe? It’s our job.
- Yes, you actually own the videos and original photos you post, but you grant Instagram the right to use them, and it can let others use them, too. In fact, other people might pay Instagram to use your photos, but the company isn’t going to pay you, because you agree to that by agreeing to their TOS. Think about that for a minute.
- Instagram can keep, use, and share any and all information about you that it has. This includes information like your name, birthday, phone number, where you live, your email address, where you work (or the school you go to), what you like and dislike (as you indicate by your actions on the platform), the photos you share, what your habits are (where you go, how often you use Instagram, etc.), what brands you like, who your friends are, what how often you interact with them, who you are chatting with—including in private messages—and any other personal information it finds. That’s pretty neat, isn’t it?
- Instagram has the right to send you any advertisements based on your interests, which are being monitored. It won’t always be obvious that these advertisements are directed specifically to you, and you can’t opt out.
- If Instagram is acquired by another company or sells or otherwise transfers any of its assets to another organization (i.e. merger, acquisition, bankruptcy), your information goes along with that. It’s a company asset, sweets. They own you.
- The social network has the right to restrict your access to the network, at any time, for any reason and without any notice. Nice!
- The social network has access to analytics from third parties about websites you visit, in addition to Instagram.
- If you sign in through a web browser, your photos might appear in Google searches. You can take steps to prevent this, but most people probably don’t know this.
- Instagram has the right to delete posts and any other content for any reason, at any time, without notice, and you have no recourse or right to sue the company.
- Instagram can force you to give up your user name at any time, without any reason and with no notice. Excellent. I feel really good about that.
- Instagram can remove, edit, block, and/or monitor anything posted on any account that it feels breaks any rules.
- Instagram is not responsible in any way if any user breaks any of the rules. If you break them, you are responsible. Of course.
The Takeaway—What You Need to Keep in Mind
Social networks are a part of the fabric of life today and I’m certainly not suggesting (a) that this is really new news or (b) that you should stop using and sharing content on social networks. That’s ludicrous. What I am suggesting is that it’s important to understand your rights, and the rights of the social networks with which you are engaging, and to protect yourself accordingly.
This is as true whether you’re using sites like Instagram as an individual or for business purposes. For instance, if you’re a travel blogger posting amazing images on Instagram, it might be good for you to know that you’ve granted Instagram the right to sell your photos to anyone, for any price, and you are not entitled to compensation. Personally, I’d watermark the hell out of any image I share.
If you are a brand, or an agency working for a brand, building an Instagram following and spending money creating content for an Instagram channel, it’s important to know what your rights are and to protect yourself and/or your clients accordingly. What happens if all that content just disappears some day because the account is arbitrarily closed? What happens if you create content for a client or your brand that Instagram sells to someone else, without your knowledge, that you, or your clients, happen across on the internet one day? Who can you be mad at? What is your recourse?
As an aside, I’m certain that Facebook’s TOS are very similar, and it only makes sense that Snapchat and Twitter’s TOS are equally as cavalier with regard to the content you create and share on those social networks. Here’s the dealio: When it’s free, you are the product. That is a reality that is all too easy to overlook, or forget entirely, but it has never been more true than as it relates to social networks.
I’m not saying you should change one thing about how you use Instagram or any other social network. But I am suggesting that being aware of the permissions you are granting is important, from a personal use standpoint as well as a business use standpoint.
And for all that’s holy, if you have children using these platforms, please make sure they understand that there are creepy people out there who will take advantage of them at any moment and that they need to be careful with what they share and protect themselves at all times. Also please beat it into their heads that what you put on the internet stays on the internet forever. It is impossible to tell them that too many times.
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