Dear Friends: on today's edition of "Let's All Not Freak Out Now with Sarah Coller" I'd like to address the newest trending freakout: Instagram Terms of Service. My kids, their friends, my friends, my enemies, almost EVERYONE is in an uproar about the new IG TOS. I don't claim to be an expert, but I'm married to one so that gives me secondhand wisdomy powers. Plus I worked in social media professionally for about 6 years where my entire life was on display for the whole world to download and I became very familiar with the different ways in which companies use, store, retrieve, and sell our information. AND….I'm a thinking-about-recovering addict so, you know… Anyway, most of what I'm going to say here is my OPINION---but it's based on some knowledge and a whole lot of that good ol' fashioned common sense you've come to adore in me.
First of all---yes, IG (and Facebook) can, will, and has been using your photos/info/contacts/location for all the nasty nefarious purposes. Without going into too much detail, let's just look at it from a common sense perspective: You are using their site for FREE. It might be hard to fathom how much time, cost and man/woman/undecided power goes into running a small little side gig like Instagram, but trust me: it's a lot. You are loading your photos to their site---what would be a better way to compensate them, do you think? Cash? I guarantee you that if IG asked you to pay $20 or even $5 per photo loaded, you'd sign off the rights to your stuff instead, without question. Furthermore, this is nothing new. It's just that now they're being more straightforward in telling you about it. Why? Well has anyone been paying attention to the Zuckerberg Senate Judiciary Committee stuff? Yeah, me neither. But, the powers-bigger-than-Zuck have been on him and my guess is that IG, FB, etc are going to be held more accountable to clearly define their Terms to users.
Here's the thing though...like I said, this kind of sharing, selling, using your info is not new. Why do you think you can be chatting with a friend on Messenger about changing your laundry detergent to Arm & Hammer and three minutes later, you see ads for it when you're browsing Amazon? You like cookies? Well in the internet world, cookies are bad bad bad. Every single internet-capable device that you own has the power to track your conversations, contacts list, location, etc. Some of these settings can be disabled---most can not. Which brings me to….
Instagram is tracking my movements through my front camera!!!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! Are you on a laptop right now? Look up at the very tippy top middle of your screen. Camera? Camera on your phone? GPS in your car? Use a credit card online? Shop at Walmart? Ever seen the self-checkout cameras? Ever returned something at Walmart and had them say you no longer need your receipt as long as you paid by card? They just swipe it and can pull up all your shopping history. You'd literally need to live more primitive than the Amish to not have the potential of being tracked by someone. Does that mean they're actually doing it? Yes, probably, but. There is not some crew of bad guys sitting in some dark room chugging coffee and actually watching your movements. Companies usually store this information for a time so it can be retrieved for little things like targeting you in advertising (again, you're using their site FREE...and way too often, by the way) or for big things like catching sex offenders, kidnappers and thieves. Remember, you're talking to one of the top 10 antisocial, way-too-private, hermits in modern times---but if I ever had a child go missing, I'd be thanking God for Facebook or Instagram's "invasive" tracking methods.
So how can you keep your content from being used against your will? It's SO SIMPLE. You can stop posting it to a site owned by another entity. Listen, if you leave your stuff at my house and expect me to leave it out and display it to anyone who comes to my house, you'd better believe I'm going to do one of two things. Either I'm gonna chuck your stuff and tell you to go find your own place to display your stuff or I'm gonna find a way to make this stuff work for me. I might use it or keep it for my grandchildren or even *gasp* modify it to better fit my purposes. 'Cause I'm the one paying the big bucks to store and display it, right? You're using a service, you pay the price. IG's Terms have not changed so much as your understanding of them has changed. This is the case on every single site you visit. That's the way of the world right now, fellas. That's what this fantastic new technologically advanced civilization has given us. Woop Woop!
If we don't like it, we can leave. Will you leave? Probably not. A few might for a while, but those who do usually find that it's a lonely world when everyone else is having a digital relationship and you're over there trying to live like it's 1999. Just promise me this: if you're going to leave IG or FB over their tracking/selling/using policies, leave everything. Be consistent so you don't look foolish. Get rid of your cell phone, your internet, your GPS in your car, your credit and debit cards. Don't pay your bills online or even over the phone, and when you go out, be sure to avoid all "security" cameras in all drive-thrus, shops, ATMs, freeways... you get the picture. In the words of my parents: they can kill us but they can't eat us.
Yeah...I don't know what that means either.