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The Big Picture: Instagram’s policy changes

As some people are already aware, Instagram is planning on changing their terms of service in January and people are getting into full-on “THEY GUNNA STEAL MY PHOTOS!” mode.

So what are the deeper implications of this? Is Instagram really just going to sell shitty filter photos (and those of the two dozen people uploading kind of artistically valuable stuff) and tapdance on its users noses, alienating the hell out of everyone?

Probably not. But their public relations are being awfully quiet about it.

There might be a reason for that: negotiations with their new robotic overlords at Facebook. I’ll show you some possible hints as to why.

First, have a hard look at the offending paragraph from the updated terms:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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 (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Emphasis mine. You notice that the metadata is explicitly mentioned next to the photos? Good.

Have another piece of news: Facebook launches ‘Nearby’ feature, aimed at discovering local venues you’d like.

If you’re totally behind the curve, Facebook owns Instagram. And plans to monetize it.

So what does this leave us with? Simple enough: seeding Facebook with location-tagged (location metadata from foursquare on Instagram photos) photos that it can use to get businesses to advertise. Facebook is all about trying to entice you to promote your status updates, even as a normal user; the next logical step to beef up the venue pages is allowing a business to use a glorified “promote my business with Instagram photos” function.

And, even more likely – when thinking of the usual way Facebook points people at stuff – use the friend connections to say “Hey, look at these great photos your friends Adam and Eve made at That Cool Store!” suddenly showing up in your stream.

If you’ll compare the changes to the terms, dear reader, and this modest proposal of a probable future feature, it’s the minimum required (next to explicitly stating which advertisers are allowed to use data in such a way) terms needed to realize this feature.

This is also the reason why Instagram probably haven’t opened up their mouth to their defense yet – gag order from the overlords while the official PR spin for the new feature is being deployed.