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In today’s digitally interconnected world, concern over user privacy has become an increasingly pressing issue, particularly when it comes to social media networks. While it is widely acknowledged that most of these platforms struggle to safeguard user privacy adequately, a closer examination of their practices and policies reveals a complex landscape of varying degrees of protection.
This article delves into the intricate workings of popular social media apps. By assessing Data Collection, User Control, Security, and User Experience patterns for different applications, we determined platforms that excel in safeguarding personal information and those that fall disappointingly short. Below is a detailed summary of our findings.
- Threads and Instagram are the worst social media platforms for protecting user privacy.
- 68% of social media apps track their users’ data for advertising and marketing.
- 62% of investigated social media apps track users’ personal data for their own marketing benefits.
- Meta’s ecosystem, which includes Instagram, Threads, Facebook, and Messenger, collects the most user data for advertising and marketing purposes. They track an astonishing 86% of personal information.
- Threads collects 50% more personal data than Twitter.
We assessed how social media apps protect their user privacy based on the following:
- Data collection – How apps collect data: We used the 14 privacy labels on the App Store to figure out which social media apps tracked the most personal information about their users for marketing reasons. The number of privacy labels an app has out of 14 determines how much personal information it monitors.
- User control – How apps let users control their data: We looked into the privacy and security settings of the app and counted how many features it has.
- Security – How secure is the app: How many security methods are these apps using?: For example, SMS authentication, two-factor identification (2FA).
- User experience – How easy is it for users to set their privacy settings: How many steps do users need to take to get to the page where they can change their privacy settings? For example, with Twitter, we will go through 4 steps: Click More icon → Settings and Support → Settings and Privacy → Privacy and Safety.
Then, a score out of 10 is given to each metric, and the total score is based on the formula:
Data Collection *0.5 – User Control * 0.2 – Security *0.2 – User Experience *0.1
Social Media Apps Fail at Protecting Users Privacy
Despite being a dominant part of modern-day communication and connection, these platforms frequently stumble when it comes to adequately protecting the personal data of their users. This section ranks applications from worst to best where user privacy is concerned.
Threads and Instagram are the worst social media platforms for protecting user privacy
Following them are:
- Facebook and Messenger
- Twitter (or X)
These apps have done a good job of giving users different choices for how to protect their private information from other users. They also use many different security measures to keep people from being hacked. However, these apps collect loads of user data for marketing and advertising activities.
Flickr is the safest social media platform for personal privacy
Following it are:
These applications collect minimal to no personal information about their users. In the meantime, they continue to provide their users with a variety of options for protecting their personal information while keeping the process uncomplicated. In terms of integrating multiple security methods to prevent hacking, these apps appear to fall short of the “most dangerous apps”.
68% of social media apps track their users’ data for advertising and marketing
If we break it down by why they’re collecting personal data:
43% of social media apps share users’ data with third parties.
62% of investigated social media apps track users’ data for their own marketing activities.
Meta’s ecosystem, which includes Instagram, Threads, Facebook, and Messenger, is especially notorious for collecting the most user data for advertising and marketing purposes. They track an astonishing 86% of personal information.
Besides them, there are other apps that collect more than 50% of user data, including: LinkedIn at 64%, Badoo at 57%, Flixster at 57%, Twitter at 57%, MeetMe at 50%, Tagged at 50%, and Youtube at 50%.
If we think of the personal information apps collect about us as the price we have to pay to use them, how much does this cost? To determine this, we used Morning Consult’s poll to find out how much users would charge a company for access to each piece of information the app collects. Then, we added up how much this data costs to find out how much the app costs. From there, we discovered:
Users pay $15,600, or $3900 per app, to use Meta’s social media apps. LinkedIn and Flixster would also cost users more than $3000 to use.
Twitter and its Rivals: Which is Safer for Your Personal Data?
Before we continue, please keep in mind that our analysis focused only on recently released apps that do similar things to Twitter. And here’s what we found out:
Among Twitter’s competitors, Threads is the only one that is more dangerous for user privacy than Twitter. While Twitter gives users 82% more control over their personal information, Threads collects 50% more personal data than Twitter.
However, most Twitter rivals tend to refuse to collect personal data. In fact, 63% of them collect no data, including Cohost, Bluesky, Substack Notes, Post News, and Mastodon.
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