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 graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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