Threads Tied Up in Knots Over Privacy Concerns

Since the launch of Meta’s new app Threads, over 150 million people have registered an account. Released to be a competitor to Twitter, the app is still in its infancy with further development to come. However, even in this early stage, the app has raised serious concerns over privacy violations. Threads has not launched in the EU due to the uncertainty of how Meta handles and shares user data across platforms. Additionally, the company has been fined due to collecting sensitive personal data without the consent of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

The United States does not have the same level of regulation, and it has been cited that Meta’s privacy policy requires users to agree to their suite of apps having access to GPS location, cameras, photos, IP information, the type of device being used and device signals including “Bluetooth signals, nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons and cell towers”. Meta uses this data collected for their targeted ads, and while Threads does not currently have ads on its platform, it is an inevitable future addition to the app. The data collected, which can include personal information like sexual orientation, race and and ethnicity, biometric data, trade union membership, pregnancy status, politics, and religious beliefs has the capability of being both sent to third parties but also contribute to surveillance style advertising. 

For users that have already created Threads accounts that no longer agree to the terms and conditions of the application and want to delete their account permanently, they are currently unable to do so without also permanently deleting their connected Instagram account. The release of Threads resurfaces the debate of personal privacy when using apps, with Meta coming under fire multiple times over the years as well as other platforms such as TikTok and Twitter. For now, there is no ability to hide personal information collected by apps without abstaining from them all together. Only time will tell how that personal data will be used and for how long companies will be allowed to collect it without regulations within the United States.

The EthicalGEO Initiative’s Locus Charter aims to provide a universal charter of principles to ensure the ethical and responsible use of location data, for a safer society both off- and online. Check out the 10 Principles here, and spread the word about supporting the Locus Charter.