Instagram hit with first class action lawsuit in Terms of Service flap

By David Ferguson
Monday, December 24, 2012 15:52 EDT
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Instagram on Facebook (AFP)
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Instagram, the Facebook-acquired photo-sharing service has been hit by a class action lawsuit stemming from a change in its Terms of Service agreement last week. According to Reuters, the change inspired “howls of protest” from users, but it’s now the reason behind the proposed suit, which was filed in San Francisco federal court on Friday by a California Instagram user.

Users of Instagram are irate that the company’s new Terms of Service provide for the company to sell users’ photos without their consent and without compensation. The new terms include a mandatory arbitration clause that would force users to forego their rights to participate in class action lawsuits against the company except under very limited circumstances.

The current Terms of Service contain no such protections for the company.

The backlash that followed the proposed changes was swift and intense. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom was forced to backtrack on some of the new terms only days after their release, removing the language about displaying users’ photos without compensation.

However, the company left in language that would allow Instagram to display ads in conjunction with user content, saying, “we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.” It also left in place the arbitration clause.

The suit, filed by San Diego-based law firm Finkelstein & Krinsk, said that customers who do not agree with the new terms of service can delete their profiles, but the photos they’ve left behind can still be used by Instagram without users’ consent.

“In short, Instagram declares that ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don’t like it, you can’t stop us,’” the lawsuit says.

Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Reuters that he was pleased to see some of the new conditions rolled back. However, he noted that the new terms have no language stipulating that users’ private photos will stay private. Opsahl criticized the practice by social media companies like Facebook of changing users’ settings so that privacy on previously posted information is no longer an option.

“Hopefully, Instagram will learn from that experience and refrain from removing privacy settings,” he said.

[image via AFP]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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