Instagram backtracks on user photos

Posted at 6:29 AM, Dec 21, 2012

Instagram photosBy Heather Kelly

(CNN) — After days of intense backlash from users over changes to its terms of service and privacy policy, photo-sharing service Instagram has backtracked. On Thursday, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said the company was switching one section of its updated terms of service back to its original text.

“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010,” said Systrom in a post announcing the change.

On Monday, the Facebook-owned app updated its terms of service to say companies could pay Instagram to use members’ images in ads without compensating the photographers. Instagram claimed the update was to allow the company to experiment with possible future advertising options, and was not part of any current plan to sell images.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work,” Systrom said in Thursday’s post.

It is not a complete reversal. Many of the other changes to the terms of service and privacy policy remain. The company still needs to work on ways to integrate ads into its free service, but for now it will tinker behind the scenes instead of prematurely sending users into a panic over the possibility that their likeness could show up in advertisements on the network.

The old advertising section that has been reinstated still says the company can place ads on the service and that “the manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you,” leaving the company with some wiggle room for future changes.

This announcement comes two days after another mea culpa post by Systrom, in which he apologized for the confusion and reassured Instagram users that they still owned their images and that the company was hearing the feedback loud and clear.

The severity of users’ reactions to the change seemed to catch Instagram off guard, though the cycle of a policy change announcement followed by user backlash and then an apology is familiar territory for its parent company, Facebook.