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Instagram reverses course and won’t sell user photos

In a blog post published around 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, Systrom stressed the company, owned by Facebook, wouldn’t sell photos uploaded to its application. Systrom said it is “working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

He went on to say, “The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”

Beginning Monday, Instagram users began to revolt online when they learned of a proposal to update the service’s legal and privacy policy. When initially reported to media, the new Terms of Service, to take effect January 16, 2013, stated Instagram will have the perpetual right to license all public photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, “which would effectively transform the Web site into the world’s largest stock photo agency,” as CNET notes.

Systrom is promising to remove “confusing” language users might misinterpret, but it’s unclear when the new policy proposal will be provided to the public.

His final paragraph relayed privacy information many Instagram users may already know – “Nothing has changed about the control you have over who can see your photos. If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you’ve approved to follow you. We hope that this simple control makes it easy for everyone to decide what level of privacy makes sense.”

The co-founder did admit that the company might do something like promote a brand such as Topshop and show Facebook visitors which of their friends already follow Topshop, blurbs that could include their user name and avatar, as the Times points out.

By contrast, Google’s policy does not allow the company to sell photographs uploaded through Picasa or its social media channel Google+. Its policy says: “The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our services.”

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