September 22, 2015


Shereen Way did not think twice about posting a photo on Instagram of her 4-year-old daughter wearing a green dress and pink Crocs sandals.

Crocs, which Ms. Way had identified with a hashtag, pulled the snapshot from Instagramand featured it in a gallery of user-generated photographs on its website. The company had not asked Ms. Way for permission, and she was not aware that Crocs had used the photo until a reporter contacted her on Instagram.

“No one reached out to me,” Ms. Way, 37, of Pearl River, N.Y., said in a phone interview. “I feel a little weirded out.”

Much later, Crocs sought her permission.

Instagram and other social sites like Pinterest and Twitter have long been sources of selfies and candid shots that retailers and other companies mine for “consumer engagement,” a broad industry term that can mean anything from Facebook likes to hashtags for brands.