Meta’s new app Threads, the social media giant’s alternative for Twitter, has attracted about 70 million users since its debut Wednesday night, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

Part of the draw may be that users can easily sign up through their Instagram account — and sign in — with a single button, making the new text-based conversation platform an extension of the more established one that primarily features photos and video.

But the tight integration among the Meta-owned apps can also serve to remind users they could be giving away the same personal data that’s collected from many of Instagram’s 2.3 billion monthly active users and from those on other Meta platforms, such as Facebook.

Meta’s privacy policy says the app may collect and share information about purchases, location, contacts, “financial info,” health and fitness, and browsing and search history, and then share that data to advertisers.

In addition, the Threads and Instagram apps, according to Apple’s App Store, “may include handling” of “sensitive information,” which could include race, sexual orientation and religion.

Meta is hoping to lure people away from Twitter, now that its owner Elon Musk recently announced restrictions, including limits on the number of tweets users can view each day.

‘Data harvesting’

“As Twitter faces turbulence from controversial policy changes, Threads appears to have emerged at just the right time. However, if people are looking for an alternative to Twitter that respects their data privacy and right to civil discourse, they will have to keep searching,” social media and online privacy expert Mark Weinstein told CBC News.

“Similar to Meta’s other products like Facebook and Instagram, it appears that Threads will earn revenue via data harvesting and surveillance capitalism,” he said.

He said several Twitter “clones” have emerged over the years, yet none have broken its stronghold. That’s because of what’s known as the network effect, meaning a social media platform is seen as having more value the more people join.

By integrating two platforms, Threads has a real chance of surpassing Twitter’s popularity, he said, “albeit while collecting mass data troves on its users.”

A user can manage some settings on Threads by tapping “profile” in the bottom right, then “settings” in the top right, Instagram says on its help centre webpage.

Other caveats

For now, only Instagram users can create a Threads account.

Another wrinkle is you can’t delete a Threads account without also deleting your Instagram.

“You may deactivate your Threads profile at any time, but your Threads profile can only be deleted by deleting your Instagram account,” Meta says in a supplemental privacy policy.

If users object to the two-for-one dynamic, some tech company websites recommend creating a separate Instagram account for Threads that can be easily given up.

That may not be a priority, however, for people counting on a high user count. With the new mobile-only app, users can pull up a list of Instagram accounts they follow and then instruct Threads to follow them, or request that for private accounts, once they join the new app.

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