Instagram Rolls Back Terms To Old Version, Effective January 19

As promised, Instagram has announced that its user agreement will revert to its previous version starting January 19. The move comes after a public outcry last December over revised terms that insinuated user images could be pulled into advertising without consent or compensation.

Truth is, the old terms that are back on deck doesn’t really protect users any better than the revised version. And yet, the photo-sharing company updated its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service in an effort to appease the masses: “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.”

Originally, the changes were supposed to go live on January 16, but emails went out today publicizing a January 19th rollout. Instagram blogged a few tentpoles on the new/old version that will be going into effect:

Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.

Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.

Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.

Adds the company: “Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

The timing is interesting. Also this morning, parent company Facebook announced Graph Search, which has kicked up a few privacy concerns of its own. While Instagram data won’t get pulled into the social search mechanism, Mark Zuckerberg says it’s “on the list of things we will one day get to.” Whether it happens or not, the company would do well to remember this P.R. debacle. Facebook has promised to revise its privacy policy to cover Graph Search, so let’s hope it learned a thing or two from all of this — like not using verbiage that freaks people out. There’s simply no faster way to kill public acceptance. Just ask the scores of artists, photographers, journalists and other Instagram users that deleted their accounts.