Ever since the first social media platform, Six Degrees, became popular in 1997, internet users around the world have begun questioning their online privacy. As social media platforms have risen in prominence, this question has never really gone away, with social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok doing their bit to heighten anxiety about the amount of data we’re passively giving over to third parties.
In 2014, for instance, the publication Wired ran a story titled ‘Facebook: The New King of Data Brokers’, where key information was given to prove Facebook was making money from user data. While internet users in 2024 have the ability to opt out of data brokers like MyLife.com and Acxiom, it’s a lot harder to opt out of platforms like Facebook – which a lot of users depend on to keep up-to-date with friends and family.
Privacy-Friendly Social Media Platform
With companies looking to use social media to engage with potential customers, nearly every platform has become less and less private over the last decade. According to a study undertaken in 2023, Facebook and Instagram are the two most privacy-invasive apps, collecting all 32 data points – which have been defined by Apple. 7 of these 32 data points are actively being used to track users, with information including names, email addresses, home addresses, and phone numbers being collected and even sold to anonymous third-parties – cloud storage firm, pCloud, recently found that Instagram shares around 79% of data with external companies.
At one point of time, the possibility of subscriptioning Facebook – giving users a subscription-like service, where they can pay to get rid of apps and keep their data private – was put to founder Mark Zuckerburg. Rather than run with the idea, however, Zuckerburg stated that there was far more money in user data and targeted ads, essentially acknowledging that Facebook had become little more than a data farm. But this isn’t the same for all social media platforms.
While the situation for internet users may seem a little dire, there are several social media sites that have rooted their companies in data privacy and security, working to keep user information safe in 2024 and beyond. These include:
Mastodon is one of these platforms. Released in 2016, Mastodon is supposed to be the private equivalent of X, with microblogging features run by independent nodes with their own privacy policies, options, and content moderation policies.
Signal is a messaging service like Facebook Messenger that uses end-to-end encryption to ensure text, voice, and video chat experiences remain secure. At the end of 2023, it was reported that there were approximately 40 million users on the platform, and this number is only set to grow as data privacy becomes an even bigger issue.
Telegram is another encrypted messaging app that has become known for its ‘Secret’ chat function. The function in question works to keep chats as private as possible, with a timed self-destruct feature and complete encryption to ensure even Telegram has no access to the data.
Other honourable mentions include Keybase, Diaspora, and MeWe, but the three sites talked about are certainly the most reliable to keep your data safe. It should be noted, however, that no social media platform is entirely private, especially for those looking for complete internet security. If you really want privacy on the internet, it is first important to opt out of those data brokers mentioned earlier, and do everything you can to keep your digital footprint to an absolute minimum.