Instagram ignites users to read others’ Policies and Terms; scary stuff everywhere

Instagram has found themselves in hot water over changes that were made to the company’s Privacy Policy this week. According to the update, Instagram now has the legal option to sell any photo shared via the service. As one might expect, this was met with fierce criticism from the community, with many users swearing to leave the service forever. This also sparked a renewed interest in the reading and understanding the Terms of Use and Privacy Policies with all web services and applications, leading to shocking discoveries everywhere.

Our first tip came from a Farmville user. Deep in the Farmville Terms of Use was this little terrifying gem.

5.1.4  In the event of a situation that is deemed appropriate by Zynga or any entity or property of Zynga, the user may be asked to forfeit any number of U.S. dollars or personal assets to Zynga, determined by Zynga, and may not be contested by the user. The user will receive written notice via mail or electronic mail, and will be required to comply within thirty (30) days of the delivery of the written notice.

According to these terms, Zynga can simply take any amount of your personal money or assets for any reason they want. They can simply say “Hey, we want $10,000″ and you’d be legally required to send them a check within 30 days. Yikes!

Another tipster sent us this horrifying section in the Privacy Policy of the new MySpace.

44.2  If a user uploads an image or piece of content to MySpace that any executive, employee, member of the MySpace Board of Directors or Justin Timberlake disagrees with or believes in any way misrepresents the vision for MySpace, the user will be required to dismember their right index finger, then package and send said index finger to MySpace Headquarters via the United States Postal Service within five (5) business days.

How did this one slip by many thousands of users already? And who did they hire as their lawyer, the guy from Saw? It’s scary to think that there are savage terms like these buried within a policy that no one reads. What else have we agreed to without our knowledge?

Probably this. A tipster sent us this paragraph from Facebook’s Terms of Use.

551.22  Facebook does not, in no way, not own your entire identity. All content uploaded to and provided to Facebook, and content not uploaded to Facebook but can be discovered through other means, including but not limited to photos, videos, messages, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, passports and credit card numbers, will not not be property of Facebook. Facebook vows to never not have the ability to do anything and everything deemed necessary with this data and content, for any reason at any time.

If you can navigate the double negatives, I’m pretty sure Facebook said that they can and will own all of your identity and will do anything they want with it at any time. That’s frightening.

I think it’s safe to say that we should all just stop clicking “I Agree” to every Terms of Use and policy and start reading these things before we all become property of Internet services.

Zynga launches Draw Something clone despite acquiring it

Zynga is widely known as the game development powerhouse behind hot Facebook and mobile games such as Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars and more. Their incredible success was highly contributed to a formula they discovered which combined two very dangerous things – addiction and virtual goods. Zynga replicated this formula many times, using the same elements of gameplay and changing the theme, ranging from kingdoms to zoos. And it worked. Zynga has even been known to use analytics to help them tweak aspects of gameplay until it reaches the perfect point of obsession and impatience, leading to uncontrollable splurging, amounting to a gazillion dollars for Zynga.

Zynga is also known for blatantly ripping off games without any shame or concern. For example, one of their first hits, Mafia Wars was an exact copy of a Facebook Game that already existed. Zynga is also currently in production of a near-identical version of the hit mobile game, Tiny Tower. The Tiny Tower developers even reacted with a sarcastic “thanks for copying our game” response. Adding to their wreckless actions, Zynga announced today that they have launched a clone of their recently acquired game Draw Something, called Whiteboardville.

Whiteboardville is Zynga’s latest addition to their mobile lineup, allowing users to take turns drawing pictures for their friends based on a word selected from a random list. So basically, Draw Something. Some users believe that Whiteboardville is Zynga’s rebranding of Draw Something. However, apparently this is not the case. We reached out to Mark Pincus, Zynga’s CEO for a response.

“Oh Whiteboardville? Yeah that has nothing to do with Draw Something. We’re letting the Draw Something team do what they do best – improve Draw Something. Whiteboardville was our way to capitalize on a completely different market – those who love drawing and spending money.”

Mark expects Whiteboardville to be a huge success for Zynga. “In Whiteboardville, we reward users based on how many pictures they draw. But, you can only draw up to 3 pictures an hour. If you want to draw more pictures, you’ll have to pay to refill your picture meter”, he said. “Our analytics show that Draw Something users draw a lot of pictures. We expect that Whiteboardville will be a huge success for us.”