Facebook or Instagram: Who Owns You?

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Facebook buys Instagram, Instagram publicly claims ownership of user information, Facebook announces that it’s selling access to you for a dollar. What!? Santa will not be visiting Facebook or Instagram this year, not with their dubious behavior so close to the holidays.  Facebook is both loved and hated throughout the country, but one thing’s for sure: everyone is using it. 

Whether for pleasure, to keep in touch with family, or out of habit, many of us have found ourselves sitting open-mouthed in front of a screen, staring mindlessly at the pictures and stories that our closest 300 friends post.  Facebook knows this and have been storing our little nuggets of information like an anxious squirrel in late fall. They are starting to get really ballsy with our information.  Poetically, they’ve unofficially partnered with, but officially purchased Instagram.  Then four days ago, Instagram announced that it was changing its privacy policy and would have the right to publish your pictures, usernames, and any other information in your account.  Suddenly, like a sibling jealous of little brother’s attention, Facebook shocked users with an announcement that they are testing a new messaging app allowing stranger dangers to send you a message for $1.

Wow, it’s like that Facebook?  One bad quarter and you’re selling users out for a dollar?  Facebook is officially vying for the McDonald’s of Facebook title. Maybe sometime soon Facebook will start selling access to strangers’ photo albums.  Of course, they would be “view only” in alignment with Facebook and user privacy policies.  We didn’t see this type of user betrayal coming.   However, given the historically scandalous founders and policies of Facebook, we should have seen it coming.  Facebook has long been approaching but has now crossed the threshold of a very dangerous slippery slope.   Now that they can prostitute you and your information, the sky’s the limit. And as they say, pimpin’ ain’t easy.

Instagram is the new kid on the block; a popular youth with all the right friends, eager to make a lasting impression.   And Instagram has achieved super star status, quickly attracting over 30 million users since its launch in 2010. Apparently being popular wasn’t enough for Instagram.  .  The following excerpt from Instagram’s original privacy policy change on December 17, 2012 explains why so many decided to jump ship:

“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.”

Although both Facebook and Instagram quickly retorted to the angry mob of users ready to lynch them in the public court of opinion, many are still skeptical of both companies’ intentions. Many Instagram users continue to leave colorful remarks on Instagram’s site just before shutting down their accounts. Despite Instagram’s privacy policy reversal announcement late last night, made itself known as a predator to users. It’s not surprising that so many people are upset.  Not many could have foreseen the hijacking or sale of their personal information, and no one would have guessed both would happen in the same week.   Even Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook expressed surprise about Instagram’s privacy policy changes.  Hmmm, but don’t they own Instagram? Users are keeping a suspicious eye on Facebook and Instagram like they would a soul-sucking ex; once bitten twice shy.

Because laws concerning user privacy on social media are pretty much non-existent, it seems like both of these social media monsters are trying to see how far they can push the envelope. And why not?  They are pioneering the social media world, forcing lawmakers to play catch up.  Although it is alarming that both companies are assuming such an aggressive posture toward the ownership of users’ information, it should not come as a surprise.  They are both in business to make money at the end of the day.  When you signed up for your free account, didn’t the old adage “nothing is free” cross your mind?  Well, it should have.  You gave them your personal information willingly.  Cyber, privacy, and copyright law makers are scrambling to keep abreast of the ongoing developments in the social media world.  For now Facebook and Instagram are writing their own rules with a pencil, just in case the government wants them to make any changes.

Blog by Jennifer Long, a Houston SEO and legal Internet marketing specialist.

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