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Twitter Rival, Threads Raises Eyebrow Over Data Protection, Privacy Concerns

Twitter Rival, Threads Raises Eyebrow Over Data Protection, Privacy Concerns

Meta Platforms’ competitor to Twitter, called Threads, will be launched on Thursday. Coming at the same time as the latest woes to hit Elon Musk-owned Twitter, it seems like an opportune time for Mark Zuckerberg’s company to be challenging the blue bird. But you might not want to rush off to your nearest app store to download it.

The reason? Meta plans to demand access to a wide range of data on your device, including data about your health and other sensitive information.

A read through the app store entries for Threads – on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store – shows Meta wants to scoop up users’ browsing history, purchases and financial information (including credit scores).

With Threads, Meta aims to position itself as a more inclusive and well-managed alternative

This prompted Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s former CEO and an investor in new social media app Bluesky – which is also challenging Twitter – to tweet a link to Thread’s app privacy settings and state: “All your Threads are belong to us.” This is a reference to “All your base are belong to us,” an amusing internet meme that gained popularity in the early days of the web.

Meta is set to release Threads on Thursday, at 4pm South African time.

The app first appeared – although not in downloadable form – in the Google Play store in Europe on Monday, followed by the Apple App Store later that same day. This swift presence on both major platforms demonstrates Meta’s intention to take advantage of the latest challenges to hit Twitter.

Threads, which can be accessed using Instagram login details, comes at a time when Twitter is facing various controversies, including rate limits on users’ feeds. With Threads, Meta wants to position itself as a more inclusive and well-managed alternative, addressing concerns raised by advertisers about the goings-on at Twitter under the leadership of Musk.

Threads is expected to offer Twitter-like features: following other users, creating threads, resharing posts and engaging in “microblogging”.

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However, ahead of its official launch, concerns are starting to mount about the access Meta intends demanding of users’ personal data through the app.

The app’s privacy policy, revealed through its listing in both the App Store and Play store, shows that it will collect a wide range of personal information, including sensitive data related to health, fitness, finances, contacts, browsing history, usage patterns, location, search history and identifiers.

Threads, meanwhile, won’t be offered in the European Union as Meta works out how data sharing between the new platform and its Instagram app will be regulated.

Meta is waiting for more guidance around the Digital Markets Act, new EU competition rules that govern how large online platforms use their market power, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing the company’s thinking. The European Commission is currently discussing the regulations with companies and is expected to give more guidance in September.

App stores in EU countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland and Belgium, weren’t listing Threads as of Wednesday morning. The new service is expected to go live on Thursday, according to listings in Apple’s App Store in the US and UK.

A spokesman for Meta said that while it was preparing to roll out Threads in more than 100 countries, with more coming soon, the company isn’t providing the entire list. A representative for the European Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A number of companies, including Meta, have self-designated themselves as “gatekeepers” under the DMA rules, which will potentially make them subject to stricter regulations around data sharing and giving preference to their own products. The DMA states that companies face restrictions on how they can combine data across platforms.

© Bloomberg

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