Do all social media apps suck when it comes to privacy?

Ian Yip
4 min readJul 8, 2023


Meta’s new Threads app just launched and set a record for sign ups, sparking another debate about its lack of respect for consumer privacy.

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

Threads passed 30M sign ups within 24 hours of launch, and 70M within 48 hours, both records in terms of launch day traction.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder, subsequently Tweeted this.

Jack Dorsey’s Tweet regarding Threads

Elon Musk, Twitter’s current owner replied.

Elon Musk’s reply to Jack Dorsey’s Tweet regarding Threads

This sparked a debate, including others pointing out that Twitter’s own app isn’t much better.

It got me wondering if this was really true.

Also, how do the other main social media apps compare?


I took a look at:

  • Threads
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok

Data Tracked

When listing on the Apple App store, apps have to declare what data they collect and track, and for what reasons. Assuming all the providers are telling the truth, this is the superset of the data they use, as per Apple’s classifications (not mine).

Health & Fitness

  • Health
  • Fitness


  • Purchase History

Financial Info

  • Payment Info
  • Credit Info
  • Other Financial Info


  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

Contact Info

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info


  • Contacts

User Content

  • Emails or Text Messages
  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content

Search History

  • Search History

Browsing History

  • Browsing History


  • User ID
  • Device ID

Usage Data

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

Sensitive Info

  • Sensitive Info


  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

Other Data

  • Other Data Types

Data Usage

Applications in Apple’s App Store must also declare how the data they access is used:

  • Data Used to Track You (i.e. across apps and websites owned by other companies)
  • Data Linked to You ( i.e. for the purposes of Third-Party Advertising, Developer’s Advertising or Marketing, Analytics, Product Personalization, App Functionality, Other Purposes)


Threads is exactly what you expect from Meta

If people are concerned about how Threads handles user privacy, they shouldn’t. Not because Meta is suddenly doing a good job in relation to privacy. They aren’t, and never have.

I’ll be more specific. People shouldn’t be any more concerned than in the past. Threads treats user privacy identically to Instagram and Facebook, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. They are all owned by Meta after all.

So, if you’re already using either Facebook or Instagram, Threads isn’t going to violate your privacy any more than they already are. Using Threads simply gives Meta more information to use as invasively as they always have.

An unexpected surprise

TikTok comes out on top in terms of being the least creepy when it comes to privacy, at least taken at face value and based on what they’ve declared to Apple’s App Store.

Here’s how the the social media apps rank, in order of best to worst privacy offenders:

  1. TikTok
  2. Snapchat
  3. Twitter
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Threads
  6. Facebook and Instagram (tied for worst)

Things that every app does

Each app has different nuances in terms of how they deliver their service, but there are common traits they all share:

  • Your Email and Device ID are used by every app for advertising purposes.
  • Your Purchase History, Location, Search History, User ID, Product Interaction, and App Performance are used by every app for their analytics.
  • Your Location, Contacts, Search History, User ID, and Product Interaction are used by every app to personalize your experience.
  • Your Purchase History, Location, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Contacts, Photos/Videos, Audio, Customer Support, Other User Content, User ID, Device ID, Product Interaction, Crash Data, and Performance Data are used by every app as part of core functionality.

Methodology for Rankings

Data collected by each app was segmented across their uses into a spreadsheet. You can find it here.

The number of data points tracked in each area were subsequently tallied to produce the following infographic. Each is colour coded by severity (red is bad, green is good, amber is somewhere between) and ranked left to right in order of best to worst when it comes to privacy violations.

If you want to see this infographic in full resolution, you’ll need to click on it to get a slightly larger version, then right click that larger version to open the full image in a new tab or window.


To answer the question posed in the title of this article, yes, they pretty much all suck when it comes to privacy. By using a social media app, you are giving up a lot of personal data that can be used in ways you aren’t aware of. Some are just more egregious about it, and Meta is by far, the worst offender.

Ian Yip is the founder and CEO of Avertro, a venture-backed cybersecurity software company. Avertro CyberHQ® is leadership’s command centre for cybersecurity.



Ian Yip

Cyber Risk. Cybersecurity. Business. Tech. Entrepreneur. CEO at Avertro. Former CTO at McAfee Asia Pacific.