Instagram announced a change to their privacy policies granting themselves ownership over all the pictures posted on the platform, including the right to sell pictures without permission or notification. They also grant themselves the right to make private pictures public, also without permission or notification. And, as if that wasn't enough, announced that they are not liable to any class action suit as a result of these new policies.
Not surprisingly, there has been a huge backlash against them and I am sure they will pull back their tyrannical policies. But the event, sadly not a new one for Facebook, which owns Instagram, raises three interesting points: A reminder, a question and a concern.
The US Constitution protects our privacy from the prying eyes of government. It does not, however, protect us from the prying eyes of companies and corporations. Facebook, Google, Apple, credit card companies, cell phone companies and the others all have access to and the ability to track us and our dealings in ways the government is not allowed without a warrant. They can use this information for their benefit and often sell it to others also for commerical gain.
By what code are companies operating these days? The law is not a high enough code. What is their moral standard? In what do they believe?
Multi-millionaires who pay half or less than half of the percentage of tax as the rest of us justify their actions by saying they pay what the law requires. Though true, the fact is they found ways within the law to beat the purpose of the law - which, in the case of taxes, is that we all pay our fair share. Facebook is doing the same thing. They are legally able to make the changes they are proposing but seem to be ignoring the morality of their decisions. How did we find ourselves in a world in which that is ok? A world in which codes of behavior or the impact on others comes second to numbers on spreadsheets.
I have no doubt that Facebook, like Bank of America before them, will, due to public outrage, reverse or soften their policy. My concern is that we live in an economy in which stabbing someone and waiting for them to complain before we remove the knife has become the normal way of doing business. When did we lose sight of the fact that it's not nice to stab people in the first place?