Meta's Threads Proves the Company's Disregard for Data Privacy

James Grieco
James Grieco
Jul 20, 2023
min read
Meta's Threads Proves the Company's Disregard for Data Privacy

Amidst the troubles plaguing Twitter in 2023, Meta saw an opportunity to grab more market share in the social media game and launched Threads on July 5. Since then, Threads has become the fastest platform to ever hit 100 million users, as it took just five days to reach that mark.

That rapid ascension hasn’t amounted to much yet, as Threads’ sign ups, engagement, and Google search trends have all fallen dramatically in the aftermath of its wildly successful first week. Still, Meta’s “Twitter Killer” remains active, offering insight into the company’s current thought patterns and practices.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the launch of Threads is how strikingly blase Meta is about data privacy. For those paying attention, this is hardly a surprise. The platform didn’t launch in the EU due to major privacy concerns and the age-old problem of buying fake followers has also already migrated to Threads.

One would think that a Big Tech company would have these issues top of mind in 2023, especially when said company had received a $1.3 billion fine for data privacy violations earlier that year, but Meta has not apparently committed to substantial data privacy changes. 

Per a TechCrunch piece covering Threads’ failure to launch in the EU, it was noted, “Information provided about the app’s privacy via mandatory disclosures required on iOS shows the app may collect highly sensitive information about users in order to profile their digital activity — including health and financial data, precise location, browsing history, contacts, search history and other sensitive information.”

Meta does not prioritize data privacy in any way whatsoever, and Threads is clear proof that the company will not change its product design unless compelled to. The company’s response to the EU’s introduction of the GDPR was to use loopholes to get around key aspects of data compliance. 

Even now, five years and billions of dollars in fines later, Meta has maintained that its social media platforms–Facebook and Instagram–require data collection in order to function. To justify this, notices of data collection and usage practices were moved to the user agreement people must agree to when signing up for the services: the antithesis of consent, data minimization, and transparency.

But Facebook and Instagram are the engines that power Meta’s billions in profit, platforms that arose during a time when data privacy regulations were much less visible than they are today. Threads has no such argument. It’s a new platform and essentially an experiment, and yet, Meta did not approach its design with any consideration of best practices in compliance. 

Whether it’s through third-party cookies or other mechanisms, Meta will continue exploiting user data for profit. It will continue to litigate and try to avoid full compliance with data privacy regulations. And it will continue to approach product design only with revenue, and not responsibility, in mind. 

If there was any hope that Meta, as one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential companies, would see the light and change its ways, Threads has put the final nail in that coffin.

Now it falls on the public and regulators to insist upon change.