Do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy online? - KMSP-TV

Do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy online?

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The social media world freaked out Tuesday when Instagram said it was going to change its terms of service in order to be able to sell your photos to advertisers.

Users threatened to delete their accounts, and when people said they would never use Instagram ever again, the Facebook-owned company backed off.

Wednesday, Instagram's co-founder released the following statement:

"The language we proposed ... raised questions about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we're going to remove the language that raised the question."

So, the people won -- their voices were heard.

But, that raises a bigger-picture question of your privacy on the internet: If you post a picture on the web, do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy? Or if you put a picture or status update  or tweet on the internet, are you already saying you're okay with it being displayed publicly?

Actor Wil Wheaton tweeted out to his 2.1 million followers, "If someone Instagrams a photo of Seth Green walking through an Urban Outfitters, does that mean Urban Outfitters can take that image and use it to create an implied endorsement by Seth?"

Wheaton continued, "What if the picture is taken by a complete stranger? Who gets final say in how the image is used? The subject, the photographer, or Instagram?"

So, should people be worried about posting photos on the internet or are most users fine with it? Also, when are your legal rights violated when it comes to photos on the web?


1. Always read the terms of service. The terms of service are the contract between you and any social media services. They dictate what social media services may do with your information. Even if you do not read them, the law presumes that you have when you accept them.

2. Always read any updates to terms of service. Almost all of the changes that people have complained about on Facebook came through updates to terms of service. They only take a few minutes to read and could save you trouble later.

3. Regularly update your privacy settings and understand how they work. Social media services update their privacy settings either to keep up with the site's functionality or (supposedly) to make them "easier" to understand. Whenever there is such an update, check your privacy settings to make sure that you are comfortable with them. You might find that your settings have become more open than you would like them to be.

4. Never post anything onto social media that you do not want the world to see. If you wouldn't want your mother to see it, then you should not put it on a social media web site.

5. Faux copyright legalese in a status update will not protect your intellectual property or your privacy. Again, your rights are governed by the terms of service. If the terms are not acceptable, then you should not use the site. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security because you posted a privacy notice to Facebook in a status update.

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