Terms of Disservice

Have Yourself a Very Litigious Christmas: Instagram Sued for Changes to Its Terms of Service

"In short, Instagram declares that 'possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don't like it, you can't stop us.'"

The alleged “suicide note.”

All those calming platitudes from Kevin Systrom haven’t silenced the blowback over recent changes to Instagram’s terms of service. Reuters broke the news that a class action lawsuit was filed against Instagram this past Friday in San Francisco federal court.

The complaint (below) was filed on behalf of a California Instagram user named Lucy Funes “and all others similarly situated.” It accuses Instagram of a breach of contract for violating the convenant of good faith and fair dealing, among other allegations, and demands a jury trial.

Reuters says it “appears to be the first civil lawsuit,” in response to changes to Instagram’s TOS, implying it might not be the last.

According to the complaint:

If customers do not agree with Defendant’s scheme, they can cancel their profile with Instagram. However, upon canceling, customers forfeit all right to retrieve the Property that was previously entrusted to Instagram, which retains right thereto in perpetuity. In short, Instagram declares that “possession is nine-tenths of the law and if you don’t like it, you can’t stop us.”

The complaint also takes issue with Instragram’s newly announced mandatory arbitration clause, which forces users “to waive their rights to participate in a class action lawsuit except under very limited circumstances,” notes Reuters. The current terms of service, which are in effect until January 19, 2013, do not stipulate that kind of liability shield.

In an email to Reuters, Facebook, which purchased Instagram for $715 million in April, said: “We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”

Reuters also spoke to Kurt Opsahl, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He applauded Mr. Systrom’s decision to change proposed advertising terms based on criticism from users, but harped on potential privacy pitfalls in the new TOS:

However, he said the new terms no longer contain language which had explicitly promised that private photos would remain private. Facebook had engendered criticism in the past, Opsahl said, for changing settings so that the ability to keep some information private was no longer available.

Based on the uptick of dog, Christmas cookie and FOMO-inducing vacation photos in our Insta feed, we’d say users seem less perturbed.

Class action lawsuit against Instagram for TOS changes

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com