Instagram’s Threads: How The Trending App is a Risk to Your Cybersecurity

instagram threads on screen

Social media platforms have become an essential aspect of our personal and professional lives, transforming how we communicate and connect with people worldwide. In this ever-evolving landscape, a social platform called Threads has emerged. This record-breaking platform achieved an unprecedented milestone of over 100 million users in just five days. A milestone that took ChatGPT two months to achieve. 

Threads, a mobile application developed by Meta, offers a fresh approach to sharing and interacting within a tight-knit community of friends or colleagues. It prioritizes private and intimate conversations, enabling users to selectively share updates, photos, and videos with their chosen circle. By focusing on fostering genuine and meaningful connections, Threads aims to provide a more secluded and personal alternative to the broader social media platforms that exist today. The app is very comparable to Twitter, as it is mainly text-based and is extremely conversational between users. However, since its record-breaking launch, Threads has recently begun to see some dropoff in user growth and engagement with daily active users down 20% and time spent using the app down 50%, from 20 to 10 minutes. Threads has made significant strides in redefining the social media landscape by offering a unique space for private and meaningful interactions within a select community. The recent decline in user growth and engagement raises questions about its ability to sustain long-term interest and overcome the challenges faced by social media apps. As Threads continues to evolve, addressing privacy concerns, ensuring data security, and adapting to user preferences will be crucial for its future success. 


Meta Integration Risks and Privacy Concerns 

Threads is very easy to both download and sign up for, as it integrates seamlessly with a user’s Instagram account when first signing up for the platform. However, this seamless integration could pose security risks for user’s. Instagram, Facebook, and now Threads are all owned by Meta and for many users, each of their Meta accounts share the same login credentials between each of the platforms. This makes it much easier for malicious actors to access information as gaining access to just one account ultimately gives them access to all Meta accounts. In fact, as of now, only users with an Instagram account can create a Threads account, so if an individual wants to sign up for Threads they will have to create an Instagram account first. Since Threads and Instagram are so closely linked, it is extremely important to be cautious of account deletion as if you delete your Threads account, your Instagram account will go along with it. Currently, it is possible to deactivate Threads profiles without affecting associated Instagram accounts, although complete deletion is not an available option. A representative from Meta has mentioned that the Threads team is actively exploring a solution to enable separate removal of the app, but no specific timeframe or commitments have been provided at this time. 

Instagram’s track record regarding the sharing of user data with Facebook (along with its extensive advertising network) has long been a subject of privacy concerns spanning over a decade. When Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, they initially assured existing users that their data would not be shared with Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire. However, Facebook quickly went back on their promise and initiated compulsory data sharing between the two platforms in the same year. Over time, the extent of this data sharing expanded gradually, culminating in the formal integration of Facebook Messenger and Instagram’s backend in 2020. Given this recent history of the company, privacy concerns surrounding Threads are well-founded. In light of Instagram’s troubled history with user data sharing and Facebook’s broken promises, the concerns surrounding Threads’ privacy are justified, as it appears that users will have minimal control over the utilization of their personal data being utilized by Meta through the use of this application.


Privacy Concerns and Regulatory Scrutiny in a Global Perspective

Cyber crime experts also warn users to be on the lookout for other privacy issues when using Threads. The app is still unavailable in areas with more strict privacy laws, such as the European Union. Countries in the European Union are much more heavily regulated when it comes to protecting the privacy of the consumer. However, privacy concerns are not limited to the European Union, as regulatory scrutiny regarding Threads extends to the United States as well. Meta, the parent company of Threads, remains under a consent decree imposed by the FTC in 2012, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive” practices in handling user personal information. If the forced linking of Instagram and Threads accounts results in users losing adequate control over their data privacy or necessitates burdensome additional steps to ensure data security, it is possible that this could be deemed a violation of the FTC decree. This highlights the potential legal implications and the importance of ensuring users’ privacy rights are upheld in the context of using Threads. Security researchers and privacy advocates have highlighted that Threads collects more user data than many other social media platforms today. This extensive collection of personal data can be seen as invasive and is unnecessary for the app’s core functionality. 

While the app’s privacy policy mentions the utilization of user data in third-party applications, it fails to disclose the specific entities involved. The app’s current data collection terms, which encompass browsing history, search history, physical geolocation, and more, have raised concerns regarding privacy. Almost none of the data that is collected is necessary for app function. It is all data points for future advertising, and certain brands are already on board and anticipating upcoming targeted campaigns. The widespread concern among cyber crime experts, privacy advocates, and regulatory bodies regarding privacy issues associated with Threads emphasizes the need for heightened caution when using the app. It is crucial to ensure that users’ privacy rights are upheld, safeguarding their data from invasive practices and unnecessary data collection that primarily serves future advertising endeavors.

As evident for many of today’s social media platforms, it is important to incorporate best practices when creating and using your accounts. This is especially important when using Threads as the app may pose privacy concerns and is still extremely new to the market. Using strong passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication may be the key to protecting your data from being taken and used by malicious actors. 

It is also extremely important to carefully read through each social platform’s privacy policy so that you fully understand what data the platform has the ability to take from you and allow you to make the final decision on whether you are comfortable sharing this data. The more equipped with knowledge that you are about the applications that you are using, the better able you will be able to protect yourself and your data both now and in the future. Thus, maintaining good cybersecurity practices and being proactive about protecting personal data are crucial considerations when using social media platforms like Threads. Ultimately, user empowerment and a proactive approach to privacy and security will be instrumental in maintaining control over your personal information within the dynamic landscape of today’s social media platforms. 

Written by Arielle Miller

Arielle Miller is a Marketing Content Coordinator at AgileBlue. Arielle graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a major in marketing. She currently resides in Cleveland, OH.

July 18, 2023

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