Is Instagram FTC Compliant?


Effective January 16, 2013 Instagram will have a new user agreement. The Terms of Use are changing in a predicatable manner, it’s a free service and I assume from the update that they’re going to start adding inline advertising. My question is, “Is Instagram FTC compliant?”

I’m sure Instagram has a massive legal team now that they’re owned by Facebook but parts of their Terms of Use make me wonder what sort of digital citizens they’re in search of. Let me take you through the process of signing up for Instagram.

sign up for instagram

First you tap to register

Next you enter an email address

Next you add an email address. Since you need to be 13 to use the service I’m assuming they rely on, gmail and yahoo to verify the ages, right? Oh wait….

make up any email address for instagram

And just like that Young_Child is a registered Instagram user.

The fact of the matter is that you’ll need a smartphone to enjoy instagram with friends so parents don’t really need to worry about it. Oh, wait… did you just get your kid an itouch? Nevermind.

Anyhow, I’m not going to get all screechy and say “The Children The Children” but then I remembered they’re my kids and it’s my job to keep them safe. I am going to get a little screechy about the fact that Instagram is allowing children from 13-17 who are not old enough to enter into a contract to digitally agree to a contract on behalf of me.

And you’re like… huh? That makes no sense.

Instagram allows users 13-17 to use their service. The updated terms of use states:

instagram asks teens for contracts

In case you can’t see the image it states:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

Since when do we have children entering into contracts (because that’s what this is) with verbiage that in it’s essence says, “I promise to have my mom check it”.

Because I’m a blogger I obviously have major issues with Instagram using my images for sponsored content without any sort of revenue share. I won’t be on Instagram as of January 16 if they don’t reverse that. The good news is that folks are flocking back to Flickr and I’ll connect with them there.

So it’s crummy that Instagram doesn’t do anything to keep kids under 13 off their service. Since the audience is allegedly all over the age of 13 they don’t have to be COPPA compliant and that does make it easier to run a business. The bummer in all of this comes in section 3 of Instagram’s new Terms of Use.

instagram tricks kids

Yes, that reads: You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

This sucks if you’re a parent. Don’t trick my kids. I’ll send them to SnapChat.

Instagram is a microblogging photo service. That makes Instagram users bloggers. (Are you with me so far?) Instagram now owns rights to the blog content right? Well, they own the ad dollars. This is from the FTC:

The recent creation of consumer-generated media means that in many instances, endorsements are now disseminated by the endorser, rather than by the sponsoring advertiser. In these contexts, the Commission believes that the endorser is the party primarily responsible for disclosing material connections with the advertiser. However, advertisers who sponsor these endorsers (either by providing free products – directly or through a middleman – or otherwise) in order to generate positive word of mouth and spur sales should establish procedures to advise endorsers that they should make the necessary disclosures and to monitor the conduct of those endorsers.

I could parse the entire 20 page document that discusses the FTC Guidelines for endorsements but I think y’all get the gist of it. The FTC is calling for disclosure.

If I was selling Elf on the Shelf (what IS that thing anyhow?) I’d be advertising all over Bobbie’s Instagram Stream.

elf of the shelf on instagram


I’m not leaving Instagram yet because I cannot comprehend how a legal team would come up with this set of terms. In the interim Enrique has a great workaround.

Enrique Guitierrez on Instagram

And Ciaran reminded me that you can always use Instagram in airplane mode, get the benefits of the filters and then just have the images on your phone for your personal use.

Will you still be on Instagram during the second half of January?

UPDATE: The instagram blog has been updated and includes the following:

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. 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.


Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

Does this change things for you?

Facebook, Teens, Privacy and the end of COPPA


Recently I wrote about why I won’t be friending my children on Facebook and the rules of our house. I wrote about why kids don’t need adult friends online and access to our children.

The backlash was swift and severe. People just don’t agree with me and, as usual, I’m totally okay with that.

I have one suggestion for y’all while reading my blog. Understand that this is one document written by one woman. I’m not a lawmaker or a teacher at your child’s school. There’s a very good chance that I’m not even your neighbor. So before you get angry and offended that I’ve likened friending your child on Facebook to helicopter parenting take a breath and think about why I might have struck a nerve. If it doesn’t apply to you, move on.

In any event if your teen is on Facebook it’s the end of COPPA for you. Your children officially have identities that are being bought and sold. This is the price of free. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I’m just saying the sky is blue and my daughter’s data is being bought and sold. It’s a big and profitable business.

Now, for those of you who got very upset with me on G+ and Facebook and told me that I was a horrible negligent mother because I don’t friend my daughter on Facebook I’d like to talk to you about some other ways you can effectively parent your children though the murky waters of social media.

You can sit with your children and go on Facebook with them. Point at the kids and say, ooh isn’t that Leah from Pre K? My daughter loves looking at everyone’s pictures and giving me updates on the kids, their lives, schools, camps and sports. It’s nice spending real time with kids.

You can be your child’s admin. This can take many forms from spot checking to screen sharing. When Jane was setting up her Facebook account she was upstairs on her computer and I was in my office with a computer set to screen share. She knew I had to see how she was setting the site up but she also knew she had to be supervised. Screen share is an AMAZING tool during the week for homework when two kids are asking for your help and you have just one working printer. It’s only creepy spying if your kids don’t know you’re using it… which is frankly just fine at younger ages.

You can add your child’s logon to your devices and check in periodically. You can parent 80 gazillion ways and do so very effectively.

What you cannot do is expect to see your child on Facebook and have a complete picture of who they are. Pay attention to them at home, at school, in the company of friend and, yes, on Facebook too. Parents aren’t “finding out” that their kids are depressed from social networks, parents are finding out that their kids are depressed/anxious/afraid/happy/successful from parenting.

Hopefully your child has been on the internet with you a lot and knows not to give away a ton of personal information. Don’t fill our family trees, enter home addresses, fan their school, friend anyone they haven’t met in real life… there’s a very long list.

Sitting with your child in front of a screen full of their peers might bring about interesting discussions like, “Oh I didn’t know she was a bikini model, that’s an interesting after school activity for a 14 year old.” or “Why don’t you spend more time with Hannah? She’s really turned into a sweet girl.”

Your children (and all of us) will enter too much data. It’s what we do, it’s a mistake everyone makes (expect my brother who could put the NSA to shame). Recently I hosted a luncheon for and a few friends. Here are some great posts about how to get your information (and your child who is now sharing) off the internet.

Mamavation is giving away subscriptions…. HURRY!

JoAnn is not quite sure why anyone should worry.

Kim got chills when she saw the information that was being bought and sold around her identity.

Sarah makes a great point about changing passwords (and no “password” is NOT a password)

Romy reminds us that simply registering to vote releases our data.

Julie talks about dating and cybersecurity, something every man and woman should think of. 

Daphne has a great post about how much of her info is out there and mentions the money they lost to Maddoff