Instagram privacy debacle sparks debate over user decline

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

In the wake of the recent uproar over Instagram’s now-reverted decision to monetize certain user data, speculation and debate stirred over whether the change contributed to a four million-user strong exodus from the service. The New York Post is saying yes; Mashable and Forbes are saying no.

According to data from AppData, a social media metrics company, between December 19 and December 27, Instagram’s user base decreased from 16.4 million to 12.4 million users.

AppData told the New York Post Thursday that the decrease was most likely due to Instagram’s wildly controversial change in its terms of service on December 17 that would have allowed the company to sell user photos for advertising revenues without compensating the user who took the photo.

Enraged users intimidated the company into reverting the policy and caused Instagram founder Kevin Systrom to issue an apology.

Mashable contributor Chris Taylor balked at the New York Post report, noting that the Christmas holiday season — from which AppData’s numbers were derived — is traditionally a low traffic season for Internet companies.

TheNextWeb, reported Forbes, measured traffic for Pintrest, Zoosk and Yahoo’s Social Bar app  and discovered a similar phenomenon: traffic was astonishingly low for them as well.

Despite the data being inaccurate, according to Instagram, Taylor continued on to say that the faltering numbers should concern Instagram as having “nothing to do with statistics and everything to do with perception.”

“The Terms of Service story went viral, but the apology didn’t,” said Taylor. “The danger is that Instagram has been indelibly defined in the public mind by this story, and is on its way to becoming a butt of late-night jokes, a dinner-table meme — and yes, a whipping boy for the New York Post.”

Follow Josh on Twitter