It’s hard to tell whether Instagram will experience a massive outflow of users, but the backlash has been plentiful and harsh.
New York-based photographer Clayton Cubbit wrote on his account about the policy amendment, calling it "Instagram's suicide note.”
Another user tweeted: "Moving photos to Flickr for the time being #quitstagram flic.kr/p/dBR8wP"
In his market watch blog, The Big Picture, Barry Ritholtz titled his posting "Facebook Destroys Instagram" and criticized the company for "abuse of privacy and data mining about its users."
The new Instagram clause, revealed Monday and set to take effect in mid-January, states, "We may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data with organizations that help us provide the service to you... [and] third-party advertising partners.
"To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
The new terms of service also say this had to be done to “fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems,” and to sync Instagram with Facebook.
This means photos on the site can be used in advertising — with no reference to the person who owns the picture and with all payments going to Instagram. More importantly, there is no opt-out clause and the only step users can take if they don't want their photos shared is to delete them and stop using the service.
Queen’s University sociology professor David Murakami Wood calls the move dishonest.
"The problem with Instagram and indeed with its parent company, Facebook, is that it is working by a form of deception: users are sucked in and upload all kinds of content, and then the company changes the rules and says – ‘we will own all of this (unless you tell us otherwise by a certain date),’" said Murakami Wood in a statement. Wood is a professor working at the university's Surveillance Studies Centre.
"It's particularly deceptive because they present it as minor terms of service changes. What we need is transparency on the part of these companies so users can make informed decisions. Informed consent is a basic principle of data protection and privacy provision."
Other online services allow photo sharing
Facebook bought Instagram in April when the photo-sharing service was about two years old. It claimed 33 million users at the time.
Recently, Carolyn Everson, Facebook's vice-president of global marketing solutions, said: "Eventually we'll figure out a way to monetize Instagram."
The new terms of service have prompted a boom in a number of other online services, such as recollect.com or theopenphotoproject.com, that offer to let people download their existing photos on Instagram into another archive.
Other photo-sharing sites, such as Flickr, are also getting a slight bump in users.
Some users are not as upset. User Neil McCormick tweeted: "Just flipped through some of my @instagram pics. I will be honest if you can sell those, more power to ya. I would love to hear your pitch."