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Instagram to Outraged Users: We Won't Sell Your Photos

Instagram is facing backlash over its new user-rights policy, which it said confused people

Instagram responded to outraged users on Tuesday, saying it would not be selling their photos without their permission -- despite language in newly minted user guidelines that seemed to suggest the photo-sharing site claimed the rights to all photos.

Instead, Instagram claims users have misintrepreted the legal clause, adding that the biggest change to the site's privacy policy was that it would allow advertisers to target users with promotions much like sponsored tweets.

Many Instagram users were threatening to delete their accounts, with #BoycottInstagram a popular hashtag on Twitter.

The new policy takes effect Jan. 16, three months after Facebook completed its $1 billion acquisition of the site.

"It was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation," CEO Kevin Systrom said in a blog post on Tuesday. "This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: It is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Instead, Systrom said the company planned to integrate promoted posts in users' newsfeeds, similarly to Facebook and Twitter.

"Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos," Systrom wrote. "Nothing about this has changed."

Meanwhile, rivals that have long struggled to get an edge on the near-ubiquitous filtered photo platform have begun touting their seemingly less-exploitive privacy polices.

Yahoo, in a blog post, said users of its photo service Flickr own the rights to their images.

"We feel very strongly that sharing online shouldn’t mean giving up rights to your photos," it said. "Our Terms of Service clearly spell out that Flickr/Yahoo doesn’t own the photos that you upload. You, as a member, maintain all ownership rights to the photos that you upload to Flickr."

And 23snaps, a London-based company that makes an iOS and Android photo-sharing app, told CNET it hoped to capitalize on the uproar against Instagram.

"We will certainly do our best to make sure that Instagram users are aware of 23snaps as an alternative service," Meaghan Fitzgerald, head of marketing for 23snaps, told the site.