Monday, January 7, 2013

Why I Quit Instagram

I first joined Instagram right before Christmas, literally days before they announced their controversial new privacy policy. I'm late to the game, I know. I was instantly in love and told Donnie that he needed to get the app on his phone as well. I added the widget to the sidebar of this blog and was really excited about using it for my Daily Photo project, which, by the way, I am failing to keep up.

This is my favorite photo I took with Instagram. Daddy coming home from work is The Best Thing Ever.
Then the hammer came down and I hear that Instagram was changing their privacy policy to allow them to use member's photos for whatever purpose they choose without notification or compensation. Now, I have no delusions that my photos are so marketable that I am in any danger of intellectual property theft, but still, W.T.F. CNET reports that this shift in policy would "effectively transform [Instagram] into the world's largest stock photo agency." This article also discusses the murky quagmire of informed consent and state privacy laws in such a situation, citing the problematic use of photos of children as an example. This makes the hair stand up on my neck because I do not want pictures of my son to show up in any forum in which I did not expressly put them. I instantly made up my mind that I would be deleting my account and finding an alternative service to use and so did a lot of other people. Part of me cannot believe the audacity of Instagram and another part of me can because, afterall, it's Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook fortune we're talking about here.

This one is a close second. I was extremely fond of the Lo-Fi filter...and, of course, this face.
I ended up migrating my photos into Flickr, which I like better for a lot of reasons. First, I can add filters to photos in the Flickr app, just like in Instagram. I can also easily put photos from Flickr onto this blog and print them at home. At Christmas time I wanted to print quite a few photos of my son for his grandmas and was unable to figure out how to do this from Instagram. This could be user error, I'll admit, but I consider myself to be at least nominally tech-savvy and I could not figure it out. The feature Flickr offers that is most relevant to this discussion is their licensing functionality. I have all my photos licensed as All Rights Reserved, but through Creative Commons one can license their photos several different ways depending on their needs. I see Instagram as more of a social media vehicle than Flickr, which I am not really interested in, so I feel that Flickr meets my needs better. 

This is the before and after of a photo we edited in Flickr's Aviary. Donnie wanted it to look antique. We gave it to his mom for Christmas in a pretty round frame and she cried.
I told my friend Lacey, who uses Instagram all the time, about my concerns and she made a valiant effort at trying to convince me to stick with it but I am sold on Flickr now and no longer see the point of bothering with Instagram. After I decided Flickr was the photo site for me, I heard that Instagram was responding to public outcry and revising their privacy policy yet again. Co-founder Kevin Systrom issued a statement * that said that "legal documents are easy to misinterpret" and that is true, but a part of me feels like users may be taken advantage of precisely because they do not understand the legal jargon in a company's privacy policy. And who really reads those anyway? Have you seen the South Park episode about this very matter? At any rate, Systrom says that Instagram changed the privacy policy to allow for advertising opportunites and had no intention of selling user photos, but the fact of the matter is that they could if they wanted to. Now I'm not sure if I trust them and since I have my newly beloved Flickr it is too little too late.

Me with Flickr's Chameleon filter. This might be my favorite filter because you can barely see my inch long roots!
Christiana Mbakwe said in an article on that when you sign up for a site that offers its services for free "you surrender all your rights on determining how they operate and treat you." This is completely true and got me wondering what the privacy policies were on other sites I use. She also says, "like most subjects of benevolent dictators, we only remember our complete lack of power when they choose to exert theirs." The goal of these sites is to make a profit, as in all business ventures. The services may be technically free, but we are paying by being subjected to advertising. While we have to follow their rules when using the site, we can choose not to participate and delete our accounts, which is exactly why Instagram chose to revise their privacy policy when user outcry was so great. It would hurt their business not to.

Flickr's Salamander filter. Scratch that. This one is my favorite because it is so similar to my beloved Lo-Fi. Although it is perhaps too yellow for this particular photo.
Now, since Instagram is owned by Facebook it makes sense that I should review their privacy policy too, right? Well I did and the most f-ed up part about it is that if you have a question or complaint about their privacy policy you have to contact them via snail mail. They are a mega media giant. This is obviously to discourage complaining. Shame on you, Facebook. Other than that though, Facebook's privacy policy is pretty straight-forward, easy to read, and unsurprising, as opposed to it's lawyerly, incendiary Instagram counterpart. If you are interested, here are the privacy policies of Flickr, Librarything, and Blogger.

While I was looking into this matter I read quite a few articles expressing various opinions about the Instagram debate across a pretty broad spectrum, from intensely scolding to not-caring-but-wanting-to. Where do you weigh in?

*Perez Hilton is hard-hitting journalism, right?

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