Overreaction to Instagram Privacy Policy

From what I observed out of people throughout the day, I could have sworn that December 18 marked the end of the world as opposed to December 21. In my time following and working with social media, I had never such an unjustified joint freaking out as I saw on Tuesday. Facebook feeds and Twitter streams filled up with needless paranoia and anger as people reacted to Instagram’s revised privacy policy.

At the heart of the privacy change, the part that is getting so many people outraged, is Instragram’s position that the company has the right to use images uploaded to the service for its own purposes such as selling them to other companies so that they can do with them as they see fit. In fact, the exact language on the policy goes like this: “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, and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

First off, kudos to Instagram for pretty much getting right to the point and telling its user community the liberties they are taking. That sentence is pretty much cut and dry, yes, Instagram is reserving the right to sell any image they want to third parties. The company didn’t hide behind legal jargon and ambiguity, something that I appreciate.

Apparently though, most everyone else didn’t appreciate the frankness. Instead, they took the statement as saying that “ALL THE PHOTOS YOU POST TO INSTAGRAM WILL NOW BE SOLD TO SHADY, RACIST, CAREER ENDING COMPANIES AND POSTED ON LARGE BILLBOARDS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.”

What an overreaction.

Over 5 million pictures are uploaded to Instagram each day. That means roughly 35 million pictures are posted per week. Even though Instagram probably wouldn’t sell photos this way, for hypothetical purposes, let’s say that Instagram has a draft each week where companies can purchase images to use in their marketing campaigns. Let’s say on the draft day that a lot of companies participate and a staggering 35,000 images are sold. Although it is ridiculous to think that on a weekly basis 35,000 unprofessional iPhone snap shots would be bought for use in a well planned out, high profile advertising campaign, let’s just go along with it. This would mean that out of all the photos taken on Instagram that week, .1% of them would get purchased.

If you are like me and don’t classify as a celebrity, don’t have over a million followers, or don’t have super model looks, you don’t ever have to worry about the revisions to the Instagram policy impacting you. No company is going to purchase the photo of your macaroni and cheese dinner, nor your shot you took of yourself after you got ready for the day, nor your InstaFrame of your vacation, nor your Throwback Thursday of you and your date your sophomore year at Homecoming. You know how you always hear of those “You have a better chance of so and so happening than you do of winning the lottery” scenarios? You can substitute in having one of your Instagram pictures bought by an advertiser. It is just not going to happen.

But maybe you are one of those people who just feel the principle of abiding to such a policy is degrading and an inherent invasion of privacy. Okay, I can see where you are coming from but let’s get real here, we share information on a daily basis over the internet and other social media services that is much more intrusive and invading than what Instagram is proposing to do. What we do on Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, e-mail, and text messaging is much more vulnerable for exploitation, manipulation, and profiting than an Instagram image is. If you are so concerned and terrified by what Instagram can potentially do with the new privacy policy in place, I assume you don’t touch any other social services.

Talking hypothetically again, let’s say you do beat all odds and get struck by lightning four different times in your life and manage to have one of your Instagram images sold to an advertiser. What is possibly the worst that can happen? Instead of negative ramifications, you will probably enjoy notoriety and maybe even a little profit yourself. Please listen to me, Instagram will not deal with shady companies looking to buy their images. Rather, they will be dealing with top of the line, prestigious organizations willing to pay top dollar for these photos. My guess would be that your image would be paired with a company that is well-known and well-respected. Almost instantaneously, you could garner fame and recognition (if the photo had your personal image in it) or just the ego-booster that a national company deemed your shot (if it is of a landscape, object, etc) as advertising worthy.

Again, I caution you not to overact. BUT, if you do overact, please don’t totally jump off the deep end and make the bone headed mistake of deleting your Instagram account. As I have written about before, I find nothing more silly or damaging than when someone decides to get rid of their social media accounts. And to get rid of your Instagram account over the latest policy change is perhaps one of the dumbest reasons I have ever heard of for doing so.

Look, Instagram is really feeling the heat for this policy revision, even though I don’t think they should be. Most likely they will be revising it again and taking out some of the strong language that has turned off so many users. But whether they do or not, realize that the chance that this new policy impacts any of us is slim to none. Let’s not get carried away on a silly issue like this when there are so many more worthy causes in this world right now that we can devote our time to. Don’t Blink.