Social Media Startup Seeks to Protect User Data
Social Media Startup Seeks to Protect User Data

By Terri Wu

A New York-based social media startup is seeking to set itself apart from mainstream tech practices by taking a strict stance on data privacy.

The company is a minimalist when it comes to data collection, according to Nick Janicki, director of media relations at Gan Jing World, an entertainment platform established in the United States last July by former Silicon Valley executives.

Gan Jing’s commitment starts with allowing the use of its app without a registered account. This feature was enabled last month. Liking or sharing a video doesn’t require registration, either. Commenting on a video, however, will require an account for maintaining community guidelines. Even for that, Gan Jing is exploring other technical solutions to lift the requirement, said Janicki, adding that the startup only collects data to meet legal requirements and essential functionality needs, such as an email address to confirm registration.

“Gan Jing World does not collect users’ info nor tracks users when they leave the site or app,” Janicki told The Epoch Times. “Tracking users across the Internet is not being done at all, which is really important.”

He said Gan Jing, which means clean, treats consumers as learners rather than end products—it allows users to set up preferences for the algorithm to work in their favor: guide self-improvement in a clean entertainment free of violent, erotic, criminal, and harmful content.

Treating users as end products has a direct impact on data privacy because companies own the data of their end products, according to Janicki, who says privacy is more important than ever now, as artificial intelligence may take privacy intrusion to an all-new level by mining personal data at unprecedented power and speed.

When user data is the end product, that means the privacy is up for sale, including opened and read emails, drugstore purchases, location data, contacts, texting habits, and more.

A woman checks her phone in a file photo. (The Epoch Times)

Gan Jing’s Approach to Advertising

How can advertising work without personal data? Gan Jing wants to go back to traditional advertising, where demographic data was collected through voluntary survey responses and wasn’t tied to individual identities, according to Janicki.

He added that precision targeting based on personal data is overrated because the targeted individual is usually culturally invisible, and therefore, the context is missing; and precision targeting may incur the risk of over-optimizing into a suboptimal situation. And Gan Jing believes in ad targeting—age, sex, geographical, interest, and more—on an aggregated level without capturing individual identity, he said.

“There’s still some data capture that allows for things like recommendations,” said Janicki. “But Gan Jing doesn’t continue to track you when you leave the site or app, and your data isn’t being sold as an individual to advertisers. I think those are the two biggest differentiators of Gan Jing.”

He said for now, Gan Jing can only control its own environment and invite partners to build an ecosystem that protects data privacy. However, a user may still experience ad targeting if an advertiser does data matching on its own and targets the user somewhere else on the Internet. However, with more partners joining hands, a new ecosystem that respects users’ privacy can form, he added.