Instagram has apologised for the "confusing" language of its terms and conditions - but has denied it wants to sell its users' photos.

The Facebook-owned photo sharing service caused outrage online after users' interpreted its new terms as giving Instagram the right to sell photos and use them in adverts without permission.

Instagram's co-founder Kevin Systrom denied that the terms gave the service that option.

"It was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation," Systrom said in a blog post.

"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."

But Instagram acknowledged that its users "are confused and upset" and said it would change the language of its legal documents to clarify its position.

It said:

  • "Instagram does not claim ownership over your photos"
  • "If you set your photos to private, Instagram only shares your photos with the people you've approved to follow you"
  • "we respect that your photos are your photos. Period"

It went on:

"To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a more meaningful following. Let's say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce -- like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo -- might show up if you are following this business.

The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we're going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time."