OPINION/EDITORIAL: Social Media Apps are doing something that seems illegal, here's how they are getting away with it
By: Michaela Collins
I know we are all aware by now of the dangers of social media. The several school assemblies on cyberbullying and privacy has kept us all well informed. However, there is still something about social media that we all tend to ignore: The Terms of Service.
Now I don't blame anyone for not sitting through the 70 something pages of rules and policies that social media apps have. I couldn't even make myself read the entire thing for this article. But with recent controversies such as Facebook’s $550 million lawsuit over facial recognition and Tiktok saving information and possibly sending it to it’s country of origin, you have to wonder what we are giving up when accepting these policies.
I decided to take a look at some of the policies for three popular apps among teenagers today: Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok. Now again, I didn't read the whole thing. Instead, I read the parts where it tells you what information they collect and how they decide to use it. And let me tell you, it's a little creepy.
All of these apps said that they send your information to third-party affiliates. Meaning, if you searched for a certain thing using their app, they record that information and continue to give you more ads related to your searches. So while no one is listening to you or watching you through your phone, they are recording everything you type.
The apps also stated that they collect data like the things you watch/see so they can push other videos/pictures onto you so that you will stay on the app.
Now these things were general knowledge at this point, but reading further into it, it got more shocking. Snapchat states that they collect information log information about the pages that you visited before and after you use their app. If you search something up on Google before using Snapchat, they’ll be able to see what you’re doing.
Not only can Snapchat look at other things you’re doing while not using the app, they even record how long you’ve watched a certain ad or story for. As for location, if you use Snapmaps, they can store your “favorite” places for up to 40 days.
Snapmaps has also gotten the company in controversy, alarming child safety groups everywhere. According to Childnet International :“It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time.”
If you decided that you no longer want your Snapchat anymore, delete your account, Snapchat states that they will delete most of your information. They were not specific as to what information they do keep.
However, Facebook owns Instagram. Facebook has had a little history with violating users privacy. I wouldn't be surprised if Facebook had a little influence on Instagram in regards to their rules.
The new app with rapidly growing popularity, Tiktok has had a few run-ins with the law recently. Their policy was similar to the other apps' policies. They do record everything you watch on the app and keep all of the information.
Tiktok has been accused of saving information after you delete your account. So if you decided to make another account with this app, they will recommend the same videos you watched on your deleted account.
Also just as appalling, in late 2019 the app has been accused by a California college student of sending users information to China, where the app originated.
According to Reuters, “The plaintiff downloaded the Tik Tok app in March or April of 2019, but never actually created a Tik Tok account. Why would they send information to China and what exactly are they sending? We don't know.
Now I don't expect many people to delete their social media if they took the time to read the Terms of Service. In today's world, it's difficult not to have some sort of social media. It provides us with current news, keeps us in touch with one another, allows us to see what our favorite people on the platform are doing, etc.
The media does have several benefits. Unfortunately, these benefits also come with consequences. While you may have fun posting pictures of your vacations or making short dance videos with you friends, you may be giving up a lot more then what you intended.
Written, edited, and produced by Wethersfield High School students, covering all news and events.