Instagram's terms of use changes draw scrutiny

Under the updated terms of use agreement, Instagram says it will let businesses or other entities use its users' "username, likeness, photos" and other information about their activity on the photo-sharing app in promotions or sponsored content. It added that users will not be compensated if businesses choose to use their data.

"Some or all of the service may be supported by advertising revenue," the terms of use agreement reads. "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 co-founder Kevin Systrom said in a blog post Tuesday afternoon that the app developer doesn't have plans to sell its users' photos.

"To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear," Systrom writes.

He also shot down claims that Instagram users' photos will be featured in ads. Instead, the app will show users which businesses their friends follow on the photo-sharing service, he said.

"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," Systrom writes. "Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time."

Systrom added that users' privacy preferences will remain the same and the company plans to take additional steps to help answer its users' questions about the new policy changes.

Instagram had originally said that the updates would help it "function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups" so it can fight spam or other bugs in its service.

Privacy advocates sounded alarm over the updates to Instagram's terms of use agreement.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said in a statement that the changes raise legal questions and noted that Facebook agreed to a consent order with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that prohibited the social network from "changing privacy settings without the affirmative consent of users or misrepresenting the privacy or security of users' personal information." EPIC also noted that using a person's "name or likeness for commercial purposes" without obtaining consent is barred in most states.

Jeffrey Chester, president of the Center for Digital Democracy, signaled that his group may be readying a complaint for the FTC against Instagram's new policy changes.

"Instagram's approach to using the likenesses of teens is very troubling and we will explore a complaint after the first of the year," Chester said.

He claimed that the proposed changes are driven by Facebook's concern for its bottom line rather than its users' privacy, calling it a "craven attempt" by the company "to please the powerful Madison Avenue companies who are increasingly playing a larger role in how the social network giant does its business."

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, said he is concerned about Instagram's terms of use updates and plans to look into them.

"I am very concerned that Instagram’s new privacy policies and terms of service are putting consumer privacy at risk, especially that of teenagers," Markey said in a statement. "I will closely monitor this situation and hope Instagram takes the necessary steps to ensure that personal information is protected and not sold without permission.”

This post was updated at 7:22 p.m.