Instapocalypse and the Permission War

Image by tres.jolie

How’s your Instagram account treating you now? Feel better now that Instagram restored some of its original terms of service, and recommitted to observing permission marketing norms with photos?

It seems like every four or five months we experience some outrageous Internet drama where tech and marketing bloggers declare the death of a brand.

Instagram, Chick-fil-a, Netflix, Walmart, etc. have all been condemned for some egregious act of anti-socialness. And then of course, the brands don’t die, and in most cases correct the wrong, recover, and prosper. In the case of Netflix, they are making more money than ever before.

Yet the “Instapocalypse” was different. Like other faux deaths, the network’s daily user losses seem to be negligible, but Instagram conceded promptly to its users, and retracted its intellectual terms that harnessed users’ photos for commercial purposes.

Instagram users won a larger mobile battle in the Permission Marketing War.

A War for Access

This is Happening without your Permission
Image by What What

The Instapocalypse offered a deeper wrinkle than your average Internet drama.

Instagram violated the basic tenants of permission and data privacy for marketing, forcing people to surrender their photos for commercialization. In doing so, Instagram not only upset typical privacy boundaries, but also transcended anger to the ferocious level people display when their mobile experience is violated.

There is nothing more private or personal than mobile phones and the data they hold, including photos.

Consider how hard it is to get people to provide their numbers for text updates. It’s not quite like surrendering an email address.

The mobile device is the ultimate personal possession, perhaps even more so than your wallet. In fact, it is quickly replacing the wallet as means of payment.

As a result, the mobile device and all of the data it holds, from photos to financial information, has become the ultimate battleground for permission marketing. Brands want to become a part of your mobile experience, for many it’s a question of survival.

Smart marketers seek explicit permission before sending people content on their smart phones. Other brands bend the rules, and interrupt mobile experiences. Some resort to push themselves into your mobile experience, including questionable privacy violations, forced opt-ins to notifications on apps and via email updates, and other questionable practices.

Harnessing mobile data has long been issue for FourSquare, Apple and other players. Now Instagram has experienced a similar disdain for licensing mobile memories, which is what most of these photos represent. This ongoing permission war promises to touch and mar every data issue relating to mobile.

Personal Use Moving Forward

My Now Private Instagram Page

Although I didn’t blog about the issue initially, as an amateur photographer with a lot of photos of his kid on Instagram I was annoyed.

It’s not surprising when my data is used or abused anymore. The current Internet culture of big data, algorithms, social scores and other means of trying to monetize and quantify people’s online lives almost demands data abuse.

But I don’t like the idea of Intagram/Facebook monetizing my photos, some of which were high caliber images downloaded to my iPhone so I could share them on Instagram.

Overall, I don’t think Instagram’s terms of service retraction changed corporate Facebook’s attitude about media. Facebook’s photo privacy policy is more draconian than Instagram’s, so long term there’s no safe haven. And I catch enough grief about my face being used in Facebook social ads as it is.

In the end, I decided to take my Instagram profile private as a general protection.

Flickr does a better job of letting me choose which photos are searchable and by whom. Further, it’s new app is awesome, and my public photos are well indexed by the search engines. So in my book, Flickr offers a better venue for public photos anyway.

What did you think of last month’s Instapocalypse?

Want to learn more about big data, intellectual property and privacy concerns? Attend X-Potomac on February 25, and learn how the furture of digital will impact business.