Is Instagram Making Your Photos and Messages Public? (Hint: No.)

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was among the public figures who re-posted a fake message warning about a purported privacy policy change at Instagram. It was a hoax in 2012 and it's still fake in 2019.

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By Michael Kan

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This story originally appeared on PCMag

Will Instagram make all your photos and messages public as part of a privacy policy change?


That didn't stop a number of celebrities and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (you know, the guy responsible for the nukes) from falling for a years-old hoax that falsely claims Facebook's photo-sharing app will change its rules so that Instagram "can use your photos" starting today.

"Everything you've ever posted becomes public today. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed," the post reads.

Related: 10 Instagram Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow

The fake message claims that posts and messages can be used against Instagram users in court. It then encourages users to re-post the same message, which concludes with an all-caps message that says Instagram does not have the user's permission to share photos or messages.

The hoax has been around since at least 2012, according to fact-checking site But for whatever reason, it emerged again in recent days; actresses including Julia Roberts, Debra Messing, and Taraji P. Henson, in addition to musical artists Usher and T.I., all re-posted the message, according to CNBC. Although Perry has deleted the post, at least a few of the re-postings from other public figures remain online and have received tens of thousands of likes.

Instagram confirmed the post is a hoax. "If you're seeing a meme claiming Instagram is changing its rules tomorrow, it's not true," posted Instagram's head Adam Mosseri.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Turn Your Instagram Account Into a Revenue Generator

That said, signing up for Instagram does mean you're giving up some of your privacy, including the rights to your photos. Instagram doesn't own the content you post, but the platform's terms of use say it can nevertheless use the information and photos you publicly post and share on the platform.

"You hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content," the terms of use say.

Related: 10 Steps to Success from Instagram Icon Abigail Ratchford

The same policy notes Instagram and Facebook can use your profile photo and account information alongside the ads you follow. To stop the royalty-free content licensing, you'll have to delete the affected content or shut down you account. "However, content will continue to appear if you shared it with others and they have not deleted it," Instagram's terms of use says.

Michael Kan


Michael has been a PCMag reporter since October 2017. He previously covered tech news in China from 2010 to 2015, before moving to San Francisco to write about cybersecurity.

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