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Facebook to sell your photos

20 December, 2012

A popular photo-sharing website owned by Facebook has told users it now owns the rights to their pictures.

Instagram will not give any warning or payment before cashing in on the images posted on its site. It means pictures by children as young as 13 could be sold to advertisers.

People whose photos have been taken by Instagram users risk finding their image published without their knowledge. The new policy will operate from the middle of January under changes to terms and conditions announced yesterday.

Instagram's 30million global users cannot opt out and must close their accounts to maintain control over their images. The change does not affect users of Facebook, which bought Instagram for 616million in April.

The new terms make clear that users effectively hand over the rights to their pictures and personal information in exchange for 'free' access to Instagram. Its website now reads: 'You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos ... in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.'

The site also updated its privacy settings to share information about its users with Facebook as well as with other affiliates and advertisers.

Instagram says users must be at least 13 years old to sign up for the service. But the new rules assume that when an underage teenager signs up, a parent or guardian is aware that their child's image, username and photos might be used in adverts.

The shake-up was described as a 'disgusting' and 'egregious' breach of privacy yesterday. Nick Pickles, of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: 'People thought they were Instagram's customers, but in reality users are Instagram's product. It goes to show when respecting people's data and privacy come into conflict with profit, there's only ever going to be one winner.'

Instagram said the changes will make it easier to integrate with Facebook.

'This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used,' it said.

It came as Simon Milner, Facebook's UK policy director, told a Commons committee that ministers shouldn't introduce tough laws surrounding the use of data.

'Our services are free to users but they don't cost us nothing. We have to pay for it and the way we pay for that is advertising and that involves innovative use of the data people provide to us,' he said yesterday. Instagram launched in 2010 and allows users to share on Twitter and Facebook images they have taken with digital devices including iPhones.

The app configures photos to produce a square shape similar to the Polaroid images of the 1970s. There are 11 filters that can produce a 'retro' look.

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