What is Bitmoji – Is it Safe to Use
Emojis are a core part of online social interactions. They help users to express themselves and explain mood better than text alone cannot. The use of emojis is so astounding that it’s almost impossible to think of social chats without them. Bitmoji rode this hightide swiftly and became one of the well-known emoji platforms that socialites love to use. But, is Bitmoji safe to use? Let’s find out.
Bitmoji started as Bitstrips – a website where you could put yourself in digital comics using an avatar. Safe to say that it was a hit. It let you customize facial features to make an avatar that resembles you in real life. Because of its growing popularity, Bitstrips was launched as a separate app that focused on avatar customization only. It was later acquired by social media giant Snapchat, which has integrated Bitmoji into the platform.
But with any app that deals with user data, there are always privacy concerns, especially when the data is the user’s face.
How Does Bitmoji Work?
As we mentioned earlier, Bitmoji was spun into a separate app dedicated to creating avatars and was acquired by Snap Inc. The app still functions independently, but as a Snapchat user, you can link Bitmoji to the platform and create 3D avatars based on your appearance. Moreover, Snapchat even introduced augmented reality to Bijmoji, making it possible for you to bring avatars to your living space.
Once you have the app on your phone, simply launch Bitmoji from your Snapchat account and let it customize for you. It will bring out your avatar’s expressions that you can then use as your Snapchat profile picture.
Snapchat aside, the app functions as a dedicated platform; the option to use it outside of Snapchat is possible. A smart move on Snap Inc’s part because Bitmoji is popular on the iOS keyboard and Google keyboard.
Is Bitmoji Safe to Use?
Emojis are part of the virtual keyboard that pops up on your screen. As such, the Bitmoji app requires access to the keyboard so that you can quickly access the personalized avatars during conversations. What may seem like harmless access permission is potentially dangerous.
The virtual keyboard on our phones often holds sensitive information like home address, phone number, and keywords that rest in the predictive dictionary, not to mention the items your clipboard holds. iOS warns you of the same risks when try to give Bitmoji access to the platform.
“Full access allows the developer of this keyboard to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address.”
Bitmoji answers that in a dedicated page that discloses that the “Bitmoji Keyboard can’t read or access anything you type using your iPhone keyboard or any other third party keyboard”. So, why does it need access to the keyboard? Because the keyboard holds the stickers and Bitmoji needs access to download your personalized avatars from its servers.
While the permissions and the associated warning is understandable, things don’t make as much sense on the Android side. Bitmoji on Android requires the following permissions from you:
- Wi-Fi connection information
- Device ID & call information
- Device & app history
Some of these permissions are very suspicious for an app that only needs work on the virtual keyboard. For example, requiring access to contacts is out of the bounds of the app’s functionality.
Snap Inc. makes money through advertising. It needs to know certain things like your device type, your behavior while using its services, among other things, to better deliver advertisements to you.
Should You Worry?
There is always a persisting risk when you allow any service access to your data. Social media platforms are known to collect troves of data – even cross-site – to market the advertisers using the platforms. There is no definitive answer here because Snap Inc. hasn’t been under a privacy scandal originating from data collected through Bitmoji.
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