Instagram today announced a new bookmarking feature that lets you save photo and video posts to remember and revisit at a later date.
The feature appears as a new bookmark icon that appears beneath posts in your feed. Tap this bookmark icon to highlight it, and that particular post will be saved to a new, private tab that you can access inside your profile.
If you use Instagram as a source of photography inspiration, this new tool is a great way to keep track of other people’s photos that have caught your eye.
Social media have so thoroughly infused our everyday lives that calling them “ubiquitous” seems inadequate. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and others take up an astonishing amount of our time, bandwidth, and attention, and have become indispensable business and marketing tools as well.
A user agreement is not a mere formality. It’s a binding legal contract, of the type lawyers call a “contract of adhesion.” Contracts of adhesion offer no room for negotiation — the user’s only options are to take it or leave it. When faced with Instagram’s Terms of Service (TOS), a new user’s thinking may proceed as follows:
I don’t want to read this entire long, confusing legal document.
There are 500 million people using Instagram, so they all must have signed this thing already.
Everyone I know who’s on Instagram likes it, and none seem to have suffered terrible consequences from signing this.
If the terms were really bad, people wouldn’t be using the service.
And then they click OK. It’s a strange, implied crowdsourcing of legal reasoning, and unfortunately, it’s not great for keeping things on the up-and-up.
Let’s dig for a moment into what users agree to when they sign up with one of these services. I’ll focus primarily on Instagram here because this is PetaPixel, but we’ll take a quick peek at a few others as well.
Instagram’s Terms of Service is a long document, most of which is pretty straightforward and reasonably fair. You agree not to harass other users, not to try to hack their code, and other things that I think we can all agree are pretty necessary to keep things functioning.
The licensing section, though, is what I’d like to examine a little more closely. Particularly, this paragraph:
Crystal clear, right? No? OK, let’s break it down, piece by piece.
Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service.
Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive,
“Non-exclusive” means that while Instagram is getting a license, you are still free to license the photo to others as well.
This means Instagram doesn’t have to pay you anything in return for the license.
This means Instagram won’t have to pay you anything for it in the future.
This means Instagram can give this license to anyone they want. Getting nervous yet?
This means Instagram can sell a sub-license to another party. And they don’t have to pay you for it, because remember, we agreed above that this license is “royalty-free.”
Are alarm bells going off in your head? I hope so. You’ve just granted Instagram the right to do anything at all with your photos, without ever paying you a dime for any of it.
There are three main categories of third party:
1. Affiliates: These are companies affiliated with Instagram, who must receive your data as a function of making Instagram work. Perfectly reasonable.
2. Service Providers: Outside companies that provide services necessary to making Instagram work. Domain servers, things like that. Again, it seems reasonable–and necessary–that these companies would need to handle your information.
3. Third-Party Advertisers: Here’s the meat. When you visit a web page, advertisers look at the cookies on your computer to get a picture of what sites you’ve already visited. Then they choose an ad to show you, based on what you’ll probably enjoy seeing/want to buy. If you’ve ever looked at a product on Amazon and then noticed ads popping up on other sites for that exact same product, this is how it happens.
This is how Instagram makes money, of course. They provide a service for free, and in return you give them some information about you, which they sell to advertisers.
There’s a privacy issue here. We think of loading a web page as if we were anonymously downloading a file from a server onto our computer, but when the server reads and writes to our browsers’ cookies, the situation is at least mutual, if not reversed. The server may be able to see quite a lot of your browsing history.
Instagram attempts to assuage fears of surveillance by suggesting that no individually identifiable information is sent to the advertisers:
We may remove parts of data that can identify you and share anonymized data with other parties. We may also combine your information with other information in a way that it is no longer associated with you and share that aggregated information.
That sounds great, right? If they’re sharing anonymized and/or aggregated data, then you’re clear?
Well, not exactly. Watch out for the weasel-words: “We may remove parts of data that can identify you…” “We may also combine your information with other information…”
The word “may” (as opposed to “will” or “must”) means that Instagram is allowed to aggregate/anonymize your data. They are under no obligation to do so.
Does Instagram anonymize data in this way? Probably so, although it’s difficult if not impossible to verify that. But under the terms laid out in Instagram’s TOS, they are under no obligation to do so, and if they suddenly decided to stop and just straight-up sell all your personal info to advertisers, (1) they would be perfectly within their legal rights, and (2) you would probably never know about it.
Let’s look at one more passage from Instagram’s Terms of Service, under “General Conditions”:
You can deactivate your Instagram account by logging into the Service and completing the form available here: https://instagram.com/accounts/remove/request/. If we terminate your access to the Service or you use the form detailed above to deactivate your account, your photos, comments, likes, friendships, and all other data will no longer be accessible through your account (e.g., users will not be able to navigate to your username and view your photos), but those materials and data may persist and appear within the Service [emphasis ours] (e.g., if your Content has been reshared by others).
That bit about “resharing” is a key point to consider. The term “reshare” includes, among other things, Instagram posts that have been embedded on other sites. Embedding a photo isn’t just posting a link to it; Instagram lets users copy a chunk of code and paste it onto their own site, so that the photo appears on the user’s site along with updated comments, likes, and so on. Like this:
Instagram took another big step this week in competing more directly with Snapchat. The Facebook-owned company has launched live video and disappearing photos.
The live video feature is found in Instagram Stories, which was released back in August. To use it, swipe right from your feed to open your camera, and tap the “Start Live Video” button.
You can stream for up to an hour, your friends are notified that you’re live, watchers can leave comments, and your live story disappears from Instagram when you’re done.
If one of the people you follow is doing a live story, you’ll see “Live” under their profile pic in the stories bar. Other live stories can also be browsed through Explore.
Instagram is also launching disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct. Just like with Snapchat, you can now sent self-destructing shots to individuals or groups.
After swiping right to open your camera, tap the arrow to send your photo or video privately. These visual messages disappear from your friends’ inboxes after they’re viewed. If someone tries to replay or take a screenshot, you’ll be notified of that action.
Viewing other people’s disappearing content involves opening your inbox and tapping the new paper airplane icon in the top right corner.
Instagram is rolling disappearing photos out globally today and live video to all users over the next few weeks.
Flickr announced an update to its desktop website today that brings a trio of new changes and features for helping you discover photos and interact with other members. There’s now a two-column feed, photo previews, and a notification hub.
Your Flickr home screen has been changed from a one-column to two-column design that shows other people’s photos for you to enjoy. It shows the activities of people you follow, as well as recommended photos based on your favorite photos and Flickr’s featured photographers. The goal is to help users discover more of the 12.4+ billion photos that are stored on Flickr’s servers.
The new desktop feed now matches the feeds found in Flickr’s iOS and Android apps, so moving between mobile and desktop is now more seamless.
If you see an interesting photo in your feed, you can use the new Preview feature to see more details. Clicking the photo brings up a lightbox with a larger photo. If there are multiple photos in the batch, you can also scroll through to see each one without having to leave your feed page.
Finally, Flickr has finally added a notification hub in the upper right hand corner to allow you to view your notifications without having to scroll through your feed. This brings Flickr up to speed with other social networks that have long offered this type of hub (e.g. Facebook).
Head on over to Flickr’s website on a computer to get started with these new features.