“Gas,” a new mobile app, has soared in popularity around the country, reaching one million daily active users in the second week of October after just being released in August. The app claims to have 620 members at M-A. 

Many students enjoy the app as it’s different from other social media platforms, such as Snapchat or Instagram. The app prompts users with questions and provides four students as answer options. The user is supposed to select who relates to the prompt the most. If a student receives a vote, they get a notification in their inbox. They are also able to see what other students received votes for. Under your profile, you can see your top flames, which are the top questions you have been voted for. Gas’s cofounder Nikita Bier had previously created a similar app named “tbh.” Facebook bought tbh in October of 2016 for an estimated $100 million but in July of 2018 took it off the app store due to low usage.

The app has caused different reactions among students. Junior Meena Alvi said, “I think it’s interesting because you can see people who complimented you and you can see what question people picked you for.”

Freshman Henry Ha said, “I just downloaded the app, and believe it has a positive influence but sometimes some of the questions could be viewed in a negative light.”

Freshman Parmis Hoghooghi said, “I downloaded the app because someone sent it to me and many of my friends had it. In the beginning I think there was a positive aspect to the app. Now no one really takes it seriously. It is seen as a joke, which has brought down the fun of the app.”

Some have stopped using it as its popularity declines. Sophomore Avary Sheldon said, “It was entertaining for the first couple days. Then it got boring.”

As with many popular apps, experts have brought up concerns over its collection of data. Counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center Sara Geoghegan said, “Children and teenagers are in a uniquely vulnerable position when it comes to their data because they don’t always understand what data is being collected. In a lot of cases, there is a disconnect between what teenagers think is happening with their data and the reality of how companies treat it.”

Most interviewed M-A students are not concerned about their data privacy. Junior Daniel Parvin said, “What could Gas possibly do with my information?” Senior Jackson Bryman said, “I know I should be more careful with my data, but I guess I am just used to the risk. I am just so uninformed about privacy.” 

Like many apps, when users sign up, they agree to let the app access their contacts. However, M-A students are not concerned about their data being collected. Alvi said, “I am not concerned about Gas having my contacts. All of my contacts are people I haven’t talked to in awhile or my close friends.” Ha said, “I wasn’t concerned since I saw a lot of good reviews.”  

The app’s privacy policy states, “We will use your Contacts in order to identify other Users that you may know or that your Contacts may know and to provide you and other Users with suggestions with whom to connect, such as friends-of-friends.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has challenged the act of tracking third-party contacts in the past. Geoghegan said, “Twitter has gotten in trouble because they said they only collected phone numbers for security purposes but they actually used it to promote targeted ads to people.” As for Gas, Geoghegan added, “Is it illegal for them to use contacts for other purposes? It’s hard to say. If they were found out for using contacts in a different way, I would make the argument that it’s deceptive.” She said, “Companies are collecting any data they can get, which is definitely not a best practice because it puts consumers at risk. It’s a better practice for companies to minimize data collection, but it seems like that’s not happening with Gas.”

Parvin brought up concerns about other users seeing his name, as he said, “There could be pedophiles who use it.” Junior Ziomara Navarro also expressed concern about unwanted users, saying, “There are a lot of people who don’t like me on this campus and I wish there was a way to preemptively block them.” Some have accused Gas of being a platform for sex traffickers to message children. They responded to this allegation in a TikTok by saying that there is currently no messaging tool.

The app is part of a group of social media apps centering short-form content with time limits. It limits users to 12 polls every 30 minutes, similar to how BeReal limits users to one post every day. It allows students to connect with their friends through superlative-like polls.

The app is a new addition to social media and is becoming popular at M-A. Like with many apps, some experts have expressed concerns about data collection but students are not concerned. Some have speculated that its popularity will drop off soon. Sheldon said, “It’s not really fun anymore. I’ve stopped using it.”

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