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February 16, 2022

More Privacy Concerns From Social Media



More evidence that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) does NOT respect your privacy surfaced recently, as the Texas Attorney General announced a lawsuit against the social media giant. Read more to see how Meta has been violating the privacy of their users.

Facial recognition technology has been in use for the past decade or more. In Texas, a company must receive explicit consent from a user before collecting what Texas refers to as “biometric identifiers.” The state passed this law in an effort to protect the privacy of residents. Meta announced in November 2021 that they have discontinued the practice, however, the fact that it was in clear violation of Texas state law seems almost certain.

This is not the first time a state has found the company to be in violation of state privacy laws. In March of 2021, Meta was ordered to pay the state of Illinois $650 million after their collection practices were found to be in violation of the Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

In Texas, the suit alleges that Meta collected biometric identifiers from adults and children without consent by saving data when users signed-in via facial recognition. Even when adults can be seen as giving consent by use of the platform, children cannot consent to giving privacy rights up.

The suit also includes evidence that Meta (Facebook) set up external collection points at places such as grocery stores and other retail establishments, a practice that clearly violated the state’s privacy law.

"Facebook knowingly captured biometric information for its own commercial benefit, to train and improve its facial recognition technology, and thereby create a powerful artificial intelligence apparatus that reaches all corners of the world and ensnares even those who have intentionally avoided using Facebook services."
Ken Paxton
Attorney General of Texas

CircleIt respects your data privacy


Texas did not provide much context in their suit, but Meta’s other data practices provide us with hints as to how they were using the biometric data and how it fell afoul of the privacy statute. Much of the data collected over the years has been sold to advertisers to help them create more targeted and directed advertising. European lawmakers have expressed concern over these practices, and have taken action to prevent the social media company from using private data any way they please, especially ways that violate users’ privacy.

We DO know that the company changed their name in 2021 from Facebook to Meta, with a stated goal to explore the “metaverse.” This new digital space is more in line with virtual reality, and is what Facebook has been focused on building for the past few years. So the biometric data they collected has been used to that end, by mapping the facial markers of users, to help create digital avatars for this digital world. What privacy issues will be raised from this new frontier remain unclear.

Meta Sued Over Youth Mental Health Crisis

Meta is now facing lawsuits in 8 different states over concerns that the company knowingly exploits young people for profit. The suits further allege that Meta also made their platforms like Instagram and Facebook "psychologically addictive" and failed to protect users, particularly teens.

Whislteblower France Haugen exposed Meta for burying reports that proved the platforms are detrimental to teenage girls. The concerns are indeed staggering. The lawsuits state that prolonged platform use has led to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, as well as self-harm and attempted suicide.

TikTok & The Chinese Government Are Spying On Children

More recently, it was proven that TikTok was exposing user data to the Chinese government, a concern expressed by the U.S. government as early as 2018. Despite the recent move to Oracle servers, leaked internal memos have shown that the social media giant has repeatedly allowed data to be accessed in inappropriate ways.

This blockbuster discovery has led at least one FCC Commissioner to demand that Apple and Google remove the popular app from their stores. Brendan Carr, a Republican, has written official letters to both companies demanding that TikTok be removed from their respective app marketplaces. In his letter, Carr states that the promises made by TikTok to keep U.S. user data private and safe are not convincing, and that the app poses "an unacceptable national security risk."

Healthy Alternatives to Social Media Exist

As more and more information is exposed by the media regarding the data practices of social media giants and their lack of concern for user safety, it is time for privacy to become the focal point of our digital interactions. In alternative social media apps like CircleIt, it is becoming a major focus.

CircleIt believes that family communication should be private and secure. Our platform has had end-to-end encryption since we created it, enabling members to speak freely with their loved ones. This is what social media set out to do, before the profit motive corrupted it.

A free, private and secure technology where we can all be family is the CircleIt guarantee.