Instagram Seeks Data on Users’ Ethnicity to Improve User Experience

Instagram’s looking to improve its understanding of how people from marginalized communities use the app, and the challenges that they may or may not experience, via a new survey, in conjunction with YouGov, which will prompt some users to answer an optional question about their ethnicity.

As you can see in these example screens, some users will be prompted to provide info about their race/ethnicity, which will then give Instagram more data about how people from each community segment use the app.

As explained by Instagram:

When we established the Equity team, we wanted to understand how people from historically marginalized communities experience Instagram. For the last two years, we prioritized extensive research to better understand the concerns raised by these communities, and we made significant improvements in our products as a result. However, if we don’t know people’s race or ethnicity, we’re limited in our ability to assess how our products impact different communities.”

As a result, Instagram is now seeking more data, for which, it needs users to provide more info.

Which, given this is Meta, some will no doubt be a little wary about providing.

Instagram further outlines that the data is being collected by YouGov, independent of Meta itself, via ‘individual, de-identified responses’

“[Responses] are collected by YouGov, encrypted, and split into parts to be stored across partner research institutions. Instagram will only have access to aggregated information, which means we can’t connect people or their Instagram accounts to their individual responses.”

Academic institutions also taking part in the survey include Texas Southern University, University of Central Florida, Northeastern University, and Oasis Labs all of which will receive the de-identified responses from YouGov.

Which sounds all above board – but then again, Meta has shared sensitive information with academic organizations in the past, which has then led to misuse.

The difference in this instance, in variance to the Cambridge Analytica incident, is that the data is de-identified, encrypted – it’s essentially rinsed through more privacy protection filters to ensure that it can be linked back to a real person’s Instagram identity. Meta also notes that participation in the survey is not required, and will not limit the experiences that you have on Instagram, ‘including impacting your reach or how people engage with your content in any way’.  

This information will not be stored with partner institutions in perpetuity. Responses will be deleted by YouGov after 30 days and by Texas Southern University, University of Central Florida, Northeastern University, and Oasis Labs on request.”

Gathering this additional insight makes sense – Instagram can’t know the full scope of its initiatives unless it understands the user experience from different perspectives. But as you can tell from the various qualifiers and explanations, it’s also very aware that users may not be willing to trust it with such at this stage.

Still, it could be beneficial, and the additional security measures should provide enough safeguards to avoid possible misuse.

The new prompts will be shown to US users from today.

Source:, originally published on 2022-07-28 21:10:49