Instagram's new Privacy Police and Terms of Service clarifies its rights to user's images.

Everyone from CNET to the BBC is freaking out today about Instagram’s new terms of service. The new terms, they claim, allow Instagram to sell user’s images. 

Users are understandably upset. Wired published a tutorial on how to download all of your Instagram photos and delete your account. But long-time Instagram users should think twice before pulling the trigger.

The truth is that Instagram has always claimed full rights to your images. The old terms of service had a giant, 75-word sentence explaining that Instagram has full rights to the images that users share publicly:

By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly ("private") will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services.

The new privacy policy breaks down this sentence into a clearer, 51-word sentence with terms like “us” and “you”—phrasing that is much easier to understand -- though the new statement certainly calls out the sale of users' photos:

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.

Instagram’s own blog writes that “nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.” That’s right, you have always given away your rights to your photos, Instagram is now just being more transparent about it.

What users should be concerned about in the new terms is the integration of unlabeled advertisements. The new terms state that Instagram doesn’t have to identify paid services:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. […]You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Instagram claims on its blog that the new terms of service will also help “fight spam more effectively.” The new spam policy expands Instagram's previous anti-spam terms which were limited to unwanted email and comments. The latest provision is broader, incorporating  “other forms of commercial or harassing communications”—hopefully covering all the accounts that “like” dozens of your photos, follow you and hide the scam in their own profile description or photos.

The new privacy policy also includes instructions on how to report copyright violators because while Instagram may claim full rights, no one else can swipe your photo without your permission.

Along with its reformed terms of use, Instagram includes a disclaimer of warranties, limited liability waiver, and details on indemnification, arbitration, time limitation on claims, governing law and venue, and territorial restrictions.

Read Instagram’s full terms of service here.