Instagram Threads is a new app from Facebook that allows users to share photos, videos, messages and stories with their close friends on Instagram, the application has the look and feel of Twitter, in fact Mark Zukerburg has even marketed it as a Twitter killer.
Zuckerberg posted on the app, welcoming new users. “Let’s do this. Welcome to Threads, It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it,” he added later in further thread. “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”
The application “also” lets users set their status, location and battery level to keep their friends updated on their activities. Sounds fun, right? Well, not so fast cowboy. There is a reason why this apps release has been delayed in the European Union (EU); and this is due privacy concerns and uncertainty over personal data use, according to the Guardian (a UK newpaper) which will put it into direct conflict with the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation.
So what is worrying the EU?
Instagram Threads has been designed to collect even more data from users than what the standard Facebook and Instagram apps captures. Threads will track a users’ location, movement, speed and battery level in real time, even when the app is not in use. More worrying is that it also accesses a users’ camera and microphone without asking for permission. All this data is then shared with Facebook and Third parties. This data is or can be used it for targeted advertising, profiling, and other purposes.
Why is this important?
The lack of informed consent is a serious violation of a users’ privacy rights and personal data protection. The GDPR requires that users give their informed and explicit consent before any data collection or processing can take place. It also requires that users have the right to access, delete and restrict their data at any time. Instagram Threads does not comply with these requirements and as such could face hefty fines and legal actions if it launches in the EU.
In fact the sign up profile is very opaque, it automatically uses a your pre-existing Instagram account if you have one. And the only “Privacy” option you can choose is whether your profile is “public” or “Private”, or to be more truthful, whether your profile is open to anybody to see, or only those that are connected to you on Instagram. At NO time are you told of the additional data or device access installing this application will incur.
But even if you are not in the EU, you should be wary of using Instagram Threads. Do you really want Facebook to know where you are, what you are doing, who you are with and how much battery you have left at all times? Do you trust Facebook to keep your data safe and secure from hackers, governments and third parties? Do you want to give up your privacy for the sake of convenience and social connection?
What do I think?
In my opinion, Instagram Threads is a privacy nightmare that will only benefit Facebook and its advertisers, not you and your friends. There are other ways to stay in touch with your close friends without compromising your personal data and dignity. One final note is that if you do sign up and change your mind attempting to delete your thread account will also delete your Instagram account. This “feature” is mindboggling; I together with many others do not want to delete my Instagram account because I do not like a different application in the Meta arsenal. That is is the other issue I have with the feature, I say feature as it is not a product, but a hidden extension to Instagram, it is better to consider it Instagram comments on steroids.
So to sum up, being unable to delete my access to the service, I have removed the application from my devices. I will not be interacting with it until the privacy concerns have been sorted out. There is a need for a none opaque general consent action that clearly lays out the extra exposure you the user will be opening yourself up to when interaction with the product, there also needs to options to alter your exposure, and the ability to delete yourself from the application without it affecting other existing meta services, until those are at a minimum fixed Threads for me is just not worth the effort.