Instagram isn’t a public utility

Jordan Koschei for The Industry:

Social media is not a public utility. Using Instagram is not a right. When you begin using these services, you enter a legally binding contact with them, defined in the Terms of Service. Clicking “I agree” without reading that document is insanely irresponsible — you could be selling your soul without even realizing it. In the cases of Facebook and Instagram, you already have.

If you don’t read the terms of service before starting your legal relationship with a website, that’s fine. But you forfeit your ability to complain about the terms — the contract under whose authority you’ve voluntarily placed yourself — without sounding completely foolish.

Civic education is in a sorry state, not only in the United States but in democratic societies around the world. The fact that anyone thinks they can copy-and-paste a paragraph of legalese to their Facebook status and thus alter their legal standing on Facebook indicates we have a lot of work to do.

My friend and Angry Mac Bastards podcasting cohost John C. Welch boils it down to this:

When using a service, ask yourself two questions:

1) How am I paying for this

2) What’s the product

If the answer to 1 is “nothing”, then the answer to 2 tends to be “you”.

(Hat tip to Jared Erondu for the link.)



  • vincentbir

    Google: 1) Nothing 2) Me.

  • http://twitter.com/kipb Kip Beatty

    Not really sure of the point of the article as it applies to today’s backlash. People are furious about the CHANGES to the Instagram TOS, which they only noticed because they did in fact read the damn thing. It’s one thing to have an soul sucking TOS that people read and used the service anyway. It’s another to collect millions of users and then CHANGE the TOS to be soul sucking.

    • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

      are you new to the internet? Does this ACTUALLY surprise you, that a company would moneitize the one product they have?

      • thatswhat_shesaid

        Instagram pissed me off when they stop the twitter integration which is what made them successful. It wasn’t facebook. I agree with what your saying but they are still morons. I tried Flickr today, its actually better

      • http://twitter.com/DumaStudetto Duma Studetto

        Does it surprise you that idiotic bloggers and tech writers whoring for pageviews churn out ridiculous articles every week about Apple? Probably not. But it doesn’t stop you and your pals on AMB from screaming profanities down the microphone each week as you record another podcast. (love the show btw!)

    • http://darcyfitzpatrick.tumblr.com/ Darcy Fitzpatrick

      You and any of the other millions of users are not obligated to remain with the service. Instagram can change their policies any time they like. They don’t owe you anything.

    • JDSoCal

      Right on cue, one of the entitled people who think Instagram is a public utility. You are entitled to a full refund, sir!

  • http://twitter.com/DumaStudetto Duma Studetto

    “Clicking “I agree” without reading that document is insanely irresponsible “

    Insanely irresponsible maybe. But I don’t envy the life of the person who commits to reading all these long, drawn out terms and conditions before they use a service, and each and every time the terms are revised.

    Also just because some company buries some sleazy language into the smallprint of a long, drawn out ToS document, doesn’t necessarily mean those terms are lawful or enforceable. But you can bet your life there will always be some smug asshole coming out of the woodwork each time something like this happens.

  • http://twitter.com/stuartdredge Stuart Dredge

    People’s anger isn’t a surprise, but this should boil down to cooler logic:

    1. Instagram can do whatever it likes. It makes the app, it sets the terms of service, it needs to make money somehow.

    2. As users, we’re free to use another app if we don’t like what Instagram does, or how it goes about the changes.

    So, personally, I’d fine with seeing ads in my feed, but I’d prefer to be able to opt out of starring in them, and would also prefer them to be clearly marked as ads. For those two reasons, I’m considering switching to another app – which is a shame, but them’s the breaks.

    I used to pay for a Flickr Pro account, and would probably consider paying for Instagram via in-app subscription, if that option was offered, incidentally.

    • http://darcyfitzpatrick.tumblr.com/ Darcy Fitzpatrick

      The next app you switch to will invariably do something simiar when it comes time to start making a buck. Unless you’re willing to pay for your service. But such services are harder to catch on with enough people quicly enough to make them worthwhile, and I don’t see any free services offering a paid-for option to opt out of certain terms of service.

  • Mark LaViolette

    People, always make sure to read the Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) when signing up for any service. They are in place for 1 reason alone. Never blindly say yes to any agreement.

    I however do not agree with this statement and will be cancelling my account. “Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos”http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57559710-38/instagram-says-it-now-has-the-right-to-sell-your-photos/

  • tylernol

    flickr pro. I am glad it is still around, I like the new app a lot more than instagram’s current one. And I own my photos.

  • Lukas

    These kinds of articles are just moronic. What’s their point? Koschei is literally saying that people shouldn’t complain about corporations that treat their customers unfairly. How batshit insane is that?

    Yep, people “signed” a contract, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to complain (or that the media isn’t allowed to report about what these corporations do).

    And yep, civic education is in a sorry state, but these kinds of reports, these kinds of complaints from users, are helping to change that, to get people interested in how this stuff works, and to educate them. Koschei is basically saying “people are stupid, and they shouldn’t do this thing that could help them get more educated.”

    And finally: if you write something as crazy as “clicking “I agree” without reading that document is insanely irresponsible” when you know full well that it is impossible to read and understand these contracts, and that 99.9% of all people don’t even read the first paragraph of these contracts, and that the corporations know exactly that nobody reads them, and that their contents are effectively irrelevant most of the time, then you are the one who is out of touch and “insanely irresponsible”.

  • http://twitter.com/Yogi Jonas

    “Nothing” is not an acceptable answer to “How am I paying for this?”

    Am I the only one unreasonably annoyed by this?

    What’s the product? Sometimes.