1/4 of Instagram users may (or may not) have quit since privacy snafu

Multiple sources reported this morning that roughly one quarter of Instagram users had quit the site in response to the controversy surrounding the site’s attempt to make broad changes to its privacy policy, including claiming ownership over any photo posted to the service.

As Chris in Paris put it to me by email:

In addition to the poor decision to take over ownership of photos (that has since been reverted back to the original policy) it’s hard not to dismiss the loss of customers to the Facebook purchase. Hipsters and early movers are less likely to want to use a product that is owned by a giant like Facebook, as opposed to an independent company. Also, after a few thousand photos that look like Polaroid photos, how interesting can it still be?

Whatever it was that caused the problems today for Facebook, they’re learning the hard way that bad decisions come with a cost.

Quite right: Facebook’s share price was down by over three percent at one point today.

But as Chris also noted to me, there’s some disagreement as to whether a mass exodus from Instagram is actually place. Business Insider has a helpful explanation of what’s going on regarding Instagram’s user traffic:

The [original New York Post] story cites AppData, which tracks usage of Facebook applications like FarmVille. Some users have connected their Instagram and Facebook accounts in a way that would show up in AppData’s metrics, but most have not. So when the Post says, “Instagram, which peaked at 16.4 million active daily users the week it rolled out its policy change, had fallen to 12.4 million as of yesterday,” it’s only talking about a subset of Instagram users.

And furthermore:
instagram…the drop in active daily users of Instagram’s application on Facebook occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 25, according to AppData. (Look for yourself!) Instagram released its new terms of use on Dec. 17, igniting controversy almost immediately, but AppData doesn’t show any significant decline in usage until Christmas.
Overall Instagram usage may be down, and it may be due to real and widespread user outrage. However, the evidence cited in the story circulating the media right now is insufficient to fully support those claims.
It is sufficient, however, to support the claim that fewer people were posting photos directly to Facebook through Instagram’s mobile app during Christmas. Those users are probably not gone forever; they just put their phones down for a moment during the holiday.
But whether or not the decline in usage is a result of user outrage or family outings, it appears that Facebook and its subsidiaries’ repeated overreaches in the realm of content ownership may have finally caught up with them.


Jon Green is a senior Political Science major and Public Policy concentrator at Kenyon College. He is also the co-editor in chief of the Kenyon Observer, the school's student-run political journal. Jon worked as a field organizer for Tom Perriello in 2010 and recently returned to AMERICAblog from the Obama campaign, where he was a Deputy Regional Field Director based in Hampton, Virginia. He writes on a variety of topics but pays particularly close attention to elections, political psychology and the use of social media. Jon on Google+, and his .

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  • ShootyMcBang

    FB and like sites always remind me of my Miranda rights. Everything you say CAN and WILL be used against you in a court of law. The sites only serve to build dossiers on each user. The beauty of which is that we build them on ourselves never leaving out any details. A master plan of deception and a brilliant one,too. Through legislation they are removing all the barriers that once kept your info private so that ,if need be, in the future it will be conveniently available to use against you. I suggest that people keep posting to these sites because “they” prefer to have a completely detailed file on you as opposed to a half-assed one.

  • HolyMoly

    Any sort of watermark would probably be enough to prevent them from using your pics. No one is going to want to use a pic that has “sample” or “copyright” or “instagram sucks” stamped right across the front of it. Better yet, customize watermarks with progressive-themed statements. “Single-payer” or “ban assault rifles” or something to that effect. Surely they’re not going to want to endorse any of that; and if they do, all the better.

  • rmthunter

    It’s all moot anyway — I have no intention of joining Facebook or using Instagram.

  • Roger_of_Arabia

    Quite true. For that I might write “Instagram Sucks!” instead.

  • rmthunter

    They’d be using a photo in an ad with a big copyright notice splashed across it. If nothing else, it would make them look like pirates — which they would be.

  • Roger_of_Arabia

    I quit Instagram a few minutes ago, and I am considering quitting FB as well. I don’t like the amount of information it allows the world to see.

  • Roger_of_Arabia

    That would not be much protection because the point is that you accept its terms of service when you join. Just putting a copyright notice does not help you if it is your photo and your account if you have agreed to the TOS

  • rmthunter

    If I were to join — which is highly unlikely — I would simply run any photo I wanted to post through Photoshop and slap in a watermark with my copyright notice.

  • OtterQueen

    99% of the Instagram photos I’ve seen were boring and basically looked the same: like Instagram photos.

  • Catman51

    I quit it. The owning of photos, which will probably come up again with Facebook’s track record was enough for me.

  • http://twitter.com/iambobbybear bobbybear.i.am

    I technically can’t quit since I never joined. The privacy snafu just cemented the deal that I never ever under no circumstances think about joining.

  • Naja pallida

    This particular week is probably not a particularly good time to be taking usage statistics on any online service. Though, you would think that more people would be taking pictures and sharing them given the holiday…

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