Thinking about signing up for Threads? Here are some things to consider.

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Do you know why Meta needs your credit score and where you go to church? Neither do we.

The race is on!

Inside of a few days time, Meta’s new “Threads” app has done to Twitter what no other social media company has done – signed up 100 million text-post loving users, close to a fourth of Twitter’s audience base.

But, despite the spectacle of the punk-out between Meta’s Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Musk and the temptation to join the crowd, experts are saying that there are too many people jumping into Threads without thinking about what they’re giving Meta in the way of personal data and tracking.

Threads' key differentiator is its integration with Instagram, which provides a ready user base and a seamless transition. But Ani Chaudhuri, CEO at Dasera, says that could also be its Achilles heel when we look at it from a data privacy and security perspective.

“Merging data across platforms creates a rich, integrated dataset that may be more attractive to potential threat actors. If not managed correctly, this could result in unintended data sharing and privacy breaches,” he told ConsumerAffairs, reminding our readers that this is the exact same company that brought us that infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

Specific issues people need to be aware of

If you haven’t leaped into Threads yet, or you just signed up, there are things you should consider before you go too far. 

You can’t delete Threads without deleting Instagram. “Most people are eager to jump on board new social media platforms, especially if they believe all of their peers are doing it, too. There are some immediate pitfalls people need to be aware of, one of which is that if you sign up for Threads by linking your Instagram account, you cannot delete Threads later without having to delete your Instagram,” Sharad Varshney, CEO of OvalEdge, a data governance consultancy, told ConsumerAffairs. 

“The two are ultimately married, sealing your data within its system indefinitely unless Meta changes this policy. You can only deactivate a Threads profile if you want to hang onto your Instagram, so you’ll be stuck with a dormant Threads account. So consider manually setting up an independent Threads profile with an email if you want to give yourself that ‘Threads deletion escape hatch.’”

More advertising junk to deal with. Don’t forget – Threads is owned by Meta and you know what that means. “This comes with the usual caveats that your data will be sold in Meta's advertising platform,” Art Shaikh, Founder & CEO, DigitalWill.com, said.

“Granted, the fact that it is built on the Instagram platform means that much of the data users have shared with IG is already in Meta's database, but new interaction and engagement data will also be added. As the saying goes, if the product is free, then your data is the cost. Users should take the usual precautions.”

You’re giving away your entire life. Well, darn near. Chris Hauk, Consumer Privacy Champion at Pixel Privacy, says he, for one, can’t trust Meta when it comes to user information and how it is used.

“Meta exists for one reason, to collect as much information as it can about its users and then sell that information to anyone able to pay the asking price,” Hauk said.

How much information? According to Threads disclosure on the Google Play store, 14 pieces, including: 

  • Approximate and precise location

  • Name, email address, user IDs, home address, phone number, political and religious beliefs, sexual orientation

  • Financial info including user payment info, purchase history, credit score, and other financial info

  • Health info and fitness info

  • Emails, text messages

  • Photos and videos, voice or sound recordings, music files, and other audio files

  • Files and docs

  • Calendar events

  • Contacts

Additional concerns

"Potential users should take time to review this list and ensure they are comfortable with sharing their information before signing up for an account, which as a pre-requisite will be tied to their Instagram account," David Abramowitz, chief technologist at Trend Micro, told ConsumerAffairs.

Parents beware! Here's something pretty telling: Did you know that when Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg posted a Fourth of July picture of his family on Instagram, he blurred the faces of his children? If he's worried about the privacy of his children, then, shouldn't other parents be?

Erfan Shadabi, cybersecurity expert with data security specialists comforte AG says that before a child or young adult joins Threads, parents should familiarize themselves with the app's privacy policy and not only consider that laundry list of personal information Threads collects, but how it is stored and how it is used. 

“Assess whether the app aligns with your family's privacy expectations and values. And take note of any potential risks associated with the app's content, including user-generated content, public posts, or interactions with strangers,” he told ConsumerAffairs.

“No matter which app is in question, parents should also actively explore the app's settings and privacy controls. Teach them how to set their profile to private, limit who can view their posts or content, and how to manage friend or follower requests.”

Shadabi suggests that parents educate their children about the importance of strong passwords, avoiding suspicious links or downloads, and being cautious about sharing personal information or engaging with strangers online. 

“Teach them to identify potential risks and to report any suspicious or malicious activities on the platform. Above all, maintain an open line of communication and offer ongoing guidance and support," Shadabi said.

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