By Katabella Roberts
Elon Musk’s newly-renamed X platform has said it will begin collecting biometric data and information from some users, including their employment and education history, beginning next month.
“Based on your consent, we may collect and use your biometric information for safety, security, and identification purposes,” the updated policy reads.
The updated policy does not define “biometric information” although the term usually pertains to an individual’s physical characteristics such as fingerprints, or facial or retinal measurements. It is also not clear how the platform plans to collect such information.
The Epoch Times has contacted X for further comment.
“To use some of our products and services you need to have an account, and to create an account, you need to provide us certain information,” the policy states. “Likewise, if you use our paid products and services, we cannot provide them to you without getting payment information. Basically, certain information is necessary if you want to use many of our products and services,” it adds.
According to the policy update, San Francisco-based X also plans to gather information about user’s work and education history for recommendation purposes.
The platform rolled out its new recruitment tool, named X Hiring, currently available for verified organizations, last week.
Policy Will ‘Help Fight Impersonation Attempts’
The latest updates add to the information X already collects from users such as location data, payment information, IP address, usage data, and interactions with its content on third-party sites.
According to its policy, X uses this information for an array of purposes such as improving and personalizing its products and services “so that you have a better experience on X,” conducting research and surveys, and bolstering the safety and security of its users.
The newly updated policy also notes that X “may use the information we collect and publicly available information to help train our machine learning or artificial intelligence models for the purposes outlined in this policy.”
A representative for the social media platform confirmed the new policy change to Bloomberg.
The spokesperson said the biometric data collection will apply to X Premium users, or those who pay for the platform’s monthly subscription service, and will grant them the option to provide their government ID and a picture, to add an additional layer of verification.
Biometric data may be extracted from both for verification purposes, according to the spokesperson.
“This will additionally help us tie, for those that choose, an account to a real person by processing their government-issued ID,” the spokesperson said. “This will also help X fight impersonation attempts and make the platform more secure.”
The policy updates are in line with those of other social media platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and comes as the platform is facing a lawsuit (pdf) filed by a user who alleges it wrongfully captured, stored, and used Illinois residents’ biometric data, including facial scans, without their consent.
The Epoch Times has contacted X for further comment regarding the lawsuit.
“The announcement is at least an acknowledgment that X will be doing what other social networks have already been doing in a more covert fashion,” Stephen Wicker, a professor at Cornell University and expert on data privacy, told CBS News of the newly-updated X policy.
Policy ‘Sets a Dangerous Precedent’
However, Jacopo Pantaleoni, former principal engineer and research scientist at Nvidia, told Fortune he believes the new privacy rules “set a dangerous precedent.”
“The danger is twofold. First, if the use of these markers gets broader adoption, it might establish a system where it becomes virtually impossible to remain anonymous on the net, further eroding the very notion of online privacy,” he said.
The use of such identity markers “will invariably lead to the development of even more fine-tuned and precise methods of targeted advertisement and tailored news distribution,” he continued. “And what this means is that it will become even more difficult for users to acquire a neutral perspective of the web, and eventually, the world. The consequences could be catastrophic.”
Shortly after the policy update, Mr. Musk announced on X that users would soon be able to make video and audio calls on the platform without having to share their phone numbers.
“Works on iOS, Android, Mac & PC,” the businessman said. “X is the effective global address book.
“That set of factors is unique,” he added.
Mr. Musk initially revealed last year that he has plans to roll out a “Twitter 2.0 The Everything App,” which he said would combine encrypted direct messages, long-form tweets, and payments.
In May, the Tesla CEO said the platform would begin allowing users to send encrypted messages that same month, adding that voice and video chat capabilities, allowing users to “talk to people anywhere in the world without giving them your phone number” would follow in due course.
Mr. Musk said Thursday that the new voice and video call feature will not be encrypted at first.
“We will add the ability to turn encryption on or off dynamically,” he said. “There is necessarily a slight lag for encryption. Most of the time, encryption isn’t important and quality of call is better.”