12/18/2012 05:16 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

Photosharing, Privacy and Promises

Yesterday, the buzz began around Instagram's Terms of Use changes that will take place effective January 16, 2013. For an application that is "all about me," the policies certainly make it all about them.

The changes are numerous and seem fairly atrocious to those who care about and follow such matters. The message is also pretty user un-friendly: take it or leave it. Literally. Many did not know what to make of Facebook's acquisition of Instagram earlier this year. I guess now we do.

There are some informative pieces on what the changes mean for the user, including one by CNET's Declan McCullagh and one by The New York Times' Nick Bilton. Read, process and act accordingly if you care about these matters.

If you are in the "I don't care" category or believe the "privacy is dead" line of thought, what should still bother you is the continual changing of the rules when it comes to online and mobile tools we use everyday. If you are one of those that likens the use of social sharing applications such as Instagram to "games" and "fun," finding little consequence to the information they collect and use, even you might admit that it is pretty annoying when the rules of the "game" all of a sudden change, and drastically to boot. Companies implementing system overhauling policy changes in the wrong direction is getting tiring.

Aside from the policy ramifications, the changes go against why people use Instagram. People criticize the application's users for being "all about me," taking pictures of their food, their pets, their every coming and going. But that's just it: it is about them and their experience as they see fit to relay it through photos, not about the company owning their content. In the world of "me," you, Instagram, may lose out.

Where might Instagram find itself? Facing companies like Flickr who are taking their jump into mobile, coming with it a history of utilizing rights protections mechanisms that include promoting traditional copyright protection as well as the use of the various licensing schemes under Creative Commons. Not clear on how it all works on Flickr? I encourage you to check it out. It is how applications like Instagram should begin to approach content ownership for starters.

This is not just about a photosharing application. It is not just about privacy. It comes down to promises. While the "rules" for using the "tools" may not seem that important, they are.