Threads vs Twitter: Which Collects More Personal Data?

A detailed comparison of Threads' and Twitter's privacy policies reveals the new Meta app may collect more personal data overall but pales in comparison to Twitter when it comes to tracking its users across the internet.
Screenshot of Threads listing on the App Store, the header image for a report comparing the privacy impact of Threads and Twitter,
Simon Migliano
Agata Michalak
Simon Migliano & Agata Michalak

First published Jul 5, 2023. Updated to include analysis of Android app permissions and EU regulatory concerns.

  • Overall, Threads collects 45% more individual data points than Twitter
  • Threads claims to collect no data that’s used for tracking users across the internet. Twitter collects 10 data points that are used for this purpose, including:
    • Precise location
    • Purchase history
    • Browsing history
    • Email address
  • In the Data Linked To You category, Threads collects 68% more individual data points than Twitter does, including:
    • Health data
    • Credit information
    • Physical address
    • Search history
    • Sensitive info

Does Threads Collect More Personal Data Than Twitter?

Ahead of the July 6 launch of the new Threads mobile app, we have done a comprehensive analysis of how it stacks up against main rival Twitter in terms of data collection.

Our goal is to go a little deeper than the disappointingly surface-level public debate over Threads’ privacy practices and, as part of our ongoing work to raise awareness around digital privacy, allow people to make an informed choice between the two social media networks.

Meta has a reputation for voraciously gobbling up user data to feed the advertising tools that underpin its business model and the initial response to the unveiling of Threads, which was added to the App Store for pre-order on July 4, has mainly been one of horror at the scale of data collection, as indicated by the privacy labels on its store listing.

These privacy fears have been enthusiastically stoked by former Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who now is a director at new social media platform Bluesky, and Musk. Of course both of these high profile personalities have an interest in discouraging their users from switching to Threads.

However, the vast majority of the coverage of Threads’ privacy practices has regurgitated the simplistic narrative propagated by Dorsey and Musk.

By analyzing and comparing the App Store privacy labels in full, as opposed to simply the summary shared by Dorsey and Musk, we found that it’s not completely clear-cut which app is better from a privacy perspective. We also analyzed the full privacy policies of each platform.

Threads certainly collects more personal data points than Twitter does. However, Twitter uses 10 data points to track users across the internet, something which Threads claims not to do at all.

Notably, however, Threads does collect data in categories where Twitter does not, including Health & Fitness, Financial Info and Sensitive Info.

A significant caveat at this stage is that Apple’s privacy label system is not without its flaws, not least that the labels are self-reported and not audited by any third party. They are also frustratingly non-specific.

Which App Collects More User Data?

The following chart compares the total number of data points collected in each category of personal data by the Threads and Twitter iOS apps, as reported in their App Store privacy labels.

Chart comparing personal data collection by category carried out by Meta's new Threads app and its rival Twitter

Chart comparing personal data collection by category carried out by Meta’s new Threads app and its rival Twitter.

Threads & Twitter: Key Privacy Differences

Threads collects the following notable data points that are linked to users while Twitter does not:

  • Financial Info: Credit Info, Payment Info, Other Financial Info
  • Contact Info: Name, Physical Address, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • Contacts
  • Health & Fitness: Health data, Fitness data
  • User Content: Emails or Text Messages
  • Search History
  • Sensitive Info

It’s especially eye-catching that Meta collects “Sensitive Info” whereas Twitter claims not to. Meta states that this is used for Analytics, App Functionality and Product Personalization purposes only. However it’s not completely clear exactly what this refers to.

The Apple Developer Guidelines[1] suggest that Sensitive Info might include:

“… racial or ethnic data, sexual orientation, pregnancy or childbirth information, disability, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, political opinion, genetic information, or biometric data.”

The Threads privacy policy includes the following, which does appear to align with the above:

“You might choose to provide information about your religious views, your sexual orientation, political views, health, racial or ethnic origin, philosophical beliefs or trade union membership. These types of information have special protections under the laws of your country.”

However, this appears to refer to the content of posts made on the Threads platform. Under this interpretation, Twitter should really have the same privacy label and yet does not.

Threads has no privacy labels under the heading “Data Used To Track You”, which is defined on the App Store as data that “may be used to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies”. Twitter on the other hand discloses 10 data points that it uses for tracking, most notably:

  • Precise Location
  • Email Address
  • Browsing History
  • Purchase History
  • User ID
  • Device ID

Note that Threads does collect these data points, however the absence of any “Data Used To Track You” labels implies that Meta does not use them the same way.

In terms of data retention, Twitter offers the greater clarity of the two platforms. As per Twitter’s privacy policy: “We generally keep other personally identifiable data we collect when you use our products and services for a maximum of 18 months”. Twitter does caveat that however by stating they may keep data for longer than that if required to for legal, safety or security reasons.

Threads on the other hand states “We keep information for as long as we need it to provide our products, comply with legal obligations or to protect our or other’s interests. We decide how long we need information on a case-by-case basis.”

Full Privacy Comparison

The following table compares personal data collection by the Threads and Twitter iOS apps, as reported in their App Store privacy labels. For full definitions of the categories see the App Store guidance.[2] Click the Expand Table button to see the table in fullscreen view.

Android Permissions Comparison

The following table compares the Android permissions requested by the Threads and Twitters apps. For full definitions of the permissions see the Android developer docs.[3] Click the Expand Table button to see the table in fullscreen view.

The Twitter Android app requests 12 permissions officially flagged as high risk, compared to 8 such permissions by Threads. Twitter requests the same 8 high-risk permissions as Threads plus the following:

  • ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION – Allows an app to access approximate location.
  • BLUETOOTH_CONNECT – Required to be able to connect to paired Bluetooth devices.
  • READ_PHONE_STATE – Allows read only access to phone state, including the current cellular network information, the status of any ongoing calls, and a list of any PhoneAccounts registered on the device.
  • WRITE_SETTINGS – Allows an application to read or write the system settings.

Twitter also requests more permissions overall (46) than Twitter does (33).

GDPR Concerns

There are no plans to launch Threads in the EU, where parent company Meta is wrangling with regulators over the lawfulness of its processing of user data.[4][5]

Even aside from this fundamental blocker that also affects Facebook and Instagram, there are several immediate issues specific to Threads that look likely to run afoul of GDPR.

Threads may be clear that it is “an Instagram app” but curious new users may not quite realise what this means should they wish to delete their Threads account. It’s only possible to delete a Threads account by deleting the Instagram account to which it’s connected.

The privacy policy also confirms this, although it avoids explicitly doing do, “We offer you a variety of tools to view, manage, download and delete your Threads information by visiting your Instagram settings.”[6]

There is also the potential issue of data sharing between Instagram and Threads, which is alluded to in the Threads privacy policy, “As your Threads profile is part of your Instagram account, some of your Threads profile information is provided from or managed by your Instagram account, such as your name and username.”


We reviewed the full details of the privacy labels of the Threads and Twitter iOS apps as published on July 4, 2023 and made a direct comparison between the two apps. We also reviewed the privacy policies of each app.

The authors of all our investigations abide by the journalists’ code of conduct.