What are Instagram’s new terms of service? Should I delete the Instagram app?

Instagram’s alarming new spying terms of service are so outrageous, it’s making news and people are deleting the app. On Instagram and YouTube, I watched videos which claimed that Instagram is reading our text messages, storing and sharing our personal information worldwide, looking at all our photos, spying on us though our camara lenses, tracking our location, watching where we go on the web, capturing our our credit card numbers and addresses, and that’s just a few of the privacy concerns. After hearing this, I deleted the Instagram (IG) app off my phone as a precaution, which doesn’t delete the data from Instagram, the app is just no longer on my iPhone.

If you’d prefer to watch a short video I made on this, scroll to the bottom of this post to play the YouTube video I created on this subject.

I have been using Instagram to share photos of my pet, provide exercise tips and motivation and to encourage people to eat healthier and move more. I also use Instagram to keep in touch with friends, to find new recipes, and to see the latest fashion and make-up tips.

I wanted to make sure that the rumors were true before I deleted all the photos and videos I uploaded over the past six years, because some of the videos took over an hour to create, and I spent a lot of time making my pages look good. Once your Instagram account is deleted, the photos and videos you upload cannot be retrieved after 30 days, but you can reinstall the app after it’s been deleted.

Instead of trusting articles on the subject, I went right to the source and read Instagram’s new terms of service, dated December 20, 2020, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/help/instagram/termsofuse

To be honest, it’s not easy reading, there’s a lot of legalese. I spent additional time trying to “read between the lines” to understand what it meant in practice. On the “terms of use” page, there links to many pages, and some pages, like the terms of service and data info, is quite lengthy, which makes it more difficult to read all the terms (that may have been the point: to confuse us and to make sure we don’t know all the insidious things they are trying to hide from us). 

While I am not a lawyer, my interpretation of certain sections, in summary, are in red below. I’ve included the exact verbiage from the terms of service on-line from Facebook (source links are provided), so you can make your own assessment, if you’d like.

You cannot sue Instagram (IG):

“ARBITRATION NOTICE: YOU AGREE THAT DISPUTES BETWEEN YOU AND US WILL BE RESOLVED BY BINDING, INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION AND YOU WAIVE YOUR RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT OR CLASS-WIDE ARBITRATION” (1).

IG shares your information with law enforcement on what they may deem “misuse,” whatever that means.

“We also may share information about misuse or harmful content with other Facebook Companies or law enforcement.” (1).

While I give the green light to sharing information on social media with law enforcement if it’s going save a life, property, animals or the environment (like if someone sets a mountain on fire), it shouldn’t be used to prosecute someone for a petty crime like smoking marijuana in a state where it’s not legal.

IG shares your information across other platforms and apps

“Instagram is part of the Facebook Companies, which share technology, systems, insights, and information-including the information we have about you” 

“The Facebook Products include Facebook (including the Facebook mobile app and in-app browser), Messenger, Instagram (including apps like Boomerang), Portal-branded devices, Oculus Products (when using a Facebook account), Facebook Shops, Spark AR Studio, Audience Network, NPE Team apps and any other features, apps, technologies, software, products, or services offered by Facebook Inc. or Facebook Ireland Limited under our Data Policy. The Facebook Products also include Facebook Business Tools” (3).

IG transfers your personal info around the world, and stores it

“To operate our global Service, we must store and transfer data across our systems around the world, including outside of your country of residence” (1).

“We share information globally, both internally within the Facebook Companies, and externally with our partners and with those you connect and share with around the world in accordance with this policy. Your information may, for example, be transferred or transmitted to, or stored and processed in the United States or other countries outside of where you live for the purposes as described in this policy” (2).

Why is IG doing this? They claim its “…to show you ads, offers, and other sponsored content that we believe will be meaningful to you.” How is storing our personal info and sharing it helpful to us? It’s not! It’s helpful to them and, potentially harmful to use.

IG states:

“We don’t share information that directly identifies you (information such as your name or email address that by itself can be used to contact you or identifies who you are) unless you give us specific permission.” (1).

But, aren’t we giving them permission by using the app?

IG can do anything they want with your photos, videos, etc.

“When you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Service, you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). This license will end when your content is deleted from our systems. You can delete content individually or all at once by deleting your account” (1).

IG can change your username

“If you select a username or similar identifier for your account, we may change it if we believe it is appropriate or necessary (for example, if it infringes someone’s intellectual property or impersonates another user”  (1).

IG won’t guarantee that your personal information be kept safe or secure, thus shirking all responsibility:

Our Service is provided “as is,” and we can’t guarantee it will be safe and secure or will work perfectly all the time. (1).

Here’s where it gets super creepy. They are admitting to collecting our communications with other people, so when you send or receive a DM, direct message or private message, it’s not really private because they are saving that info, and they are keeping notes where you were (location) when a photo was taken, and even see through your phone camera: (2). Source: Data Policy | Instagram Help Center

“We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content you provide (like metadata), such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created. It can also include what you see through features we provide, such as our camera, so we can do things like suggest masks and filters that you might like, or give you tips on using camera formats (2). Source: Data Policy | Instagram Help Center

If you’ve provided information on your race, health or political views, that info might be shared and distributed, depending on the laws in your country:

“You can choose to provide information in your Facebook profile fields or Life Events about your religious views, political views, who you are “interested in,” or your health. This and other information (such as racial or ethnic origin, philosophical beliefs or trade union membership) could be subject to special protections under the laws of your country.” (2).

IG keeps and accesses who you call, all your text messages (also referred to as SMS log or short message service (4), your contacts, which means your friends, family, co-workers names, emails, phone numbers, any information you’ve entered in your contacts:

“We also collect contact information if you choose to upload, sync or import it from a device (such as an address book or call log or SMS log history), which we use for things like helping you and others find people you may know and for the other purposes listed below” (2).

IG is collecting and saving our credit card information, our address, and what we buy on the platform:

“If you use our Products for purchases (through Facebook pay) or other financial transactions (such as when you make a purchase in a game or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information; other account and authentication information; and billing, shipping and contact details.”

(3) Source: Payments | Facebook Help Center

And it gets worse, they are taking info from not just our cell phones, but also our computers, TVs, ipads, what software and hardware we use, device IDs, GPS location (where we are physically), cell phone #, to collect even more information about us:

”As described below, we collect information from and about the computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices you use that integrate with our Products, and we combine this information across different devices you use. For example, we use information collected about your use of our Products on your phone to better personalize the content (including ads) or features you see when you use our Products on another device, such as your laptop or tablet, or to measure whether you took an action in response to an ad we showed you on your phone on a different device.” (2).

“Information we obtain from these devices includes:

  • Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.
  • Device operations: information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).
  • Identifiers: unique identifiers, device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts you use, and Family Device IDs (or other identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).
  • Device signals: Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers.
  • Data from device settings: information you allow us to receive through device settings you turn on, such as access to your GPS location, camera or photos.
  • Network and connections: information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network, so we can do things like help you stream a video from your phone to your TV.” (2).

Third parties send Facebook and their affiliates, like Instagram, information about our purchases.

Advertisers, app developers, and publishers can send us information through Facebook Business Tools they use, including our social plug-ins (such as the Like button), Facebook Login, our APIs and SDKs, or the Facebook pixel. These partners provide information about your activities off Facebook—including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services—whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook. For example, a game developer could use our API to tell us what games you play, or a business could tell us about a purchase you made in its store. We also receive information about your online and offline actions and purchases from third-party data providers who have the rights to provide us with your information. (2).

They are tracking and following not just were we go virtually, but physically:

Location-related information: We use location-related information-such as your current location, where you live, the places you like to go, and the businesses and people you’re near-to provide, personalize and improve our Products, including ads, for you and others. Location-related information can be based on things like precise device location (if you’ve allowed us to collect it), IP addresses, and information from your and others’ use of Facebook Products (such as check-ins or events you attend). (2).

They are keeping track of all the websites we visit, not just Facebook or Instagram:

“We use the information we have (including your activity off our Products, such as the websites you visit and ads you see) to help advertisers and other partners measure the effectiveness and distribution of their ads and services, and understand the types of people who use their services and how people interact with their websites, apps, and services” (2).

Freaked out? You can delete the app and your account.

“We store data until it is no longer necessary to provide our services and Facebook Products, or until your account is deleted – whichever comes first. This is a case-by-case determination that depends on things like the nature of the data, why it is collected and processed, and relevant legal or operational retention needs. For example, when you search for something on Facebook, you can access and delete that query from within your search history at any time, but the log of that search is deleted after 6 months. If you submit a copy of your government-issued ID for account verification purposes, we delete that copy 30 days after review, unless otherwise stated.”

“When you delete your account, we delete things you have posted, such as your photos and status updates, and you won’t be able to recover that information later. Information that others have shared about you isn’t part of your account and won’t be deleted. If you don’t want to delete your account but want to temporarily stop using the Products, you can deactivate your account instead.” (2).

Here’s a short summary of what Instagram is collecting on you:

  • IG transfers your personal info around the world, and stores it
  • IG can do anything they want with your photos, videos, etc.
  • IG won’t guarantee that your personal info be kept safe or secure, thus shirking all responsibility.
  • IG has access to text messages and your contacts, which means your friends, family, co-workers names, emails, phone numbers, any information you’ve entered in your contacts.
  • IG is collecting and saving our credit card information, our address, and what we buy on the platform.
  • They are taking info from not just our cell phones, but also our computers, TVs, iPads, what software and hardware we use, device IDs, GPS location (where we are physically), cell phone #, to collect even more information about us

Anytime you are on the internet, or even on a telephone phone, regardless of whether it’s a landline or cell phone, information about you is being collected, no matter how careful you are, but in today’s technology age, it’s practically impossible not to be connected. Due to the pandemic, a lot of us are working on our computers from home and shopping on-line, as we should be.

Here’s some steps you can take to protect your privacy:

  • Close apps running in the background. (on iPhone, press the home button quickly, twice, and swipe up to close each running app).
  • Delete search history in your web browser (ex: IE, Safari, Chrome, Edge)
  • Don’t share your location on apps or photos (you’ll have to turn this on if you want maps to help you navigate)
  • You can use Incognito mode, or private mode, in your web browser (ex: go to the web, aka the internet, click the three dots on the top right, and select the incognito option)
  • Delete the apps you don’t use (you can always re-install them). You can still access Instagram on the web at Instagram.com without having the app on your phone or iPad, but it’s harder to use (they did that on purpose) and you cannot delete photos or edit the text from your posts on the web.
  • Go to the privacy tab in your phone and turn off access to apps.
  • Turn off access to your mic. You can allow or block apps to have access to your microphone, but if you are not using that app to record your voice or sounds around you, the microphone access should be turned off. The same concept applies to photos.
  • Turn off, or limit access to your photos. Certain apps will need access to your photos, like if you want to make a copy of your check to deposit it into your bank account, or if you want to upload a photo to Instagram, or a video to YouTube, but you don’t have to grant access to all your photos. For those apps that you use to upload photos or videos, choose selected videos instead of “all” or “none.”
  • Don’t put your personal information anywhere on the web, if possible. Hackers use your birthday, address, schools attended, graduation date, your pet’s name, and family’s names to impersonate you, steal your money, and spread harmful information about you.

Here’s what happened 24 hours after I deleted the Instagram app and did not log onto Instagram:

  • My chronic neck pain went away (aka text neck). This makes sense because looking down for long periods of time is not healthy for the spine, neck or surrounding muscles.
  • My left upper trap (trapezius muscle) started to relax and felt less tense.
  • I no longer felt I had to capture every healthy meal, cute photo of my pet, or a workout on my photo to post later.
  • I no longer thought about hashtags (which are used as search tools)
  • I felt less stressed and happier with the way I look.
  • I had more time to do whatever.

I decided that my privacy is at risk by using Instagram, so I deleted the Instagram app and my Instagram accounts. I also deleted the Facebook messenger app.

With this new information, will you delete the Instagram app and just look at Instagram on the web? Will you delete the Instagram app and all your content? Will you change your settings? Will you delete some photos or videos? Will you be a little more careful about what you post? Will you keep using social media the same way? Let me know in the comments below and why, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

If you clarity and visuals on some tech tips, watch the video I created below, specific on this subject

P.S. This is my 857th blog! I’ve been publishing blog posts on this platform, consistently for over seven years now. I can’t believe it’s been that long. To prevent burnout, and to provide helpful, interesting, educational, unique content, I’ll be posting blogs once a week from now on instead of twice a week.

If you’d like to donate to my page, to cover website fees, click the PayPal link below. Any amount is welcome, no matter how small. Thank you!

https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=Z6BNSVHQWH478

Sources:

1. https://www.facebook.com/help/instagram/termsofuse

2. Data Policy | Instagram Help Center

3. https://www.facebook.com/help/1561485474074139?ref=igtos

4. What’s the different between SMS vs MMS” (Aug 62020). Slick Test. Aug. 6, 2020. Blog. Available at https://www.slicktext.com/blog/2018/10/difference-between-sms-and-mms/ Accessed: 1/1/2021.

Additional source: https://9to5mac.com/2021/01/04/app-privacy-labels-messaging-apps/

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