Tumblr: Their Lack of Clarity Could be Harmful to Your Personal Data

Presearch Privacy Reviews is a series dedicated to reviewing the privacy of all the biggest tech companies. We hope to give you the information you need to enhance your own privacy and make educated decisions that companies would rather you avoid.

Privacy expert Dylan Curran, as always, does a great job at examining the privacy policies of platforms we use each day. He delves into the details and pulls out the good and the bad.

This is what he had to say after looking at Tumblr, a popular blogosphere boasting over 555 million monthly visitors.

“Tumblr’s been involved in a couple of controversies, they suffered a data breach in 2013 where over 65 million emails and passwords were stolen by a hacker. More recently, they’ve been involved in a scandal where they’ve failed to delete child porn from the service, and Apple removed their app from the app store.”

Presearch Privacy Review #19: Tumblr


Tumblr has a long section of the types of information they collect and then their uses for it, Curran breaks it down for us into mini-sections.

Account Information — Tumblr collects information such as your username, password, age, and email address in order to provide you with the ‘services’. They use your age to verify that you can legally use their services. They state you can also keep yourself fairly anonymous, but your posts, blogs, pages, and usernames are all visible to the public by default.

Email Communications — Tumblr may occasionally send you emails and other communications, which you cannot opt out of receiving. They use your email for this purpose, obviously.

Information from Third-Party Services — Tumblr may partner with a third -party service who may provide information about you, such as your gender if you have disclosed that information to the third-party service. An example of this is connecting your Google account, and Tumblr learning you’re male and from France.

User Content — By default, all sharing of content on Tumblr is public. Unless you have selected otherwise, assume everything on Tumblr is public. Anything done in private can and may be shared publicly by the relevant user. In addition, information shared publicly may be copied and shared throughout the Internet.

Native Actions — Tumblr stores information about your actions, such as liking a post, reblogging a post, replying to a post, and following a blog. This information is again, generally publicly available. This information is used to personalize the service and showing you more relevant advertising.

Information about User Content — This is bizarre, but Tumblr may collect information about content you provide to the services such as scanning your images and collecting information describing your camera, camera settings, or EXIF information. This allows them to ‘improve the Services’.

Information Related to Use of the Services — Tumblr will collect information about how you use their services, these may be collected in log files from internal tools and third-party applications and services like Google Analytics and comScore. This information can include your IP address among other things.

Cookies and Web Tags — Tumblr may collect near-unique identifiers through cookies that are associated with your account. They may also run limited-time studies using web tags, something with third-parties, to measure the effectiveness of advertising or email.

That is a lot of information to absorb. Curran happily breaks that information down into digestible servings for us.

“The thing is, Tumblr does a great job of compacting and simply explaining how they collect information. The problem is that they don’t really tell you what information they actually collect,” he states.

“They are explaining the mechanisms and methods they use very well, but after nearly 20 long paragraphs it seems like they’re saying a lot of words without really saying anything at all. An example is ‘near-unique identifiers’ through cookies, I genuinely have no idea what that means, and I don’t think Tumblr really knows what they mean by that either.”

He continues, “It’s funny they refuse to elaborate on data they collect, but then use an example that they collect camera information/settings and EXIF information from photos. It’s scary they do this, as this information can and does include, who took the picture, where and when they took it, what kind of phone you own, among other things. If this is the most innocuous thing they’re willing to reveal, they’re capable of storing only God knows what.”

And the proverbial ‘cherry on top’ — “Tumblr even goes on to say later in the policy that they may share information with their other affiliates, such as the entire Verizon family of companies.”


“This is a suitably vague policy,” Curran summarizes.

“To this stage it’s impossible for me to pass an actual judgement on their privacy. They don’t detail with enough accuracy the information they do or do not collect, nor do they very clearly articulate where the information goes and how exactly it is used. This loses massive points in my book, because if they’re not willing to actually say what they’re doing, then you have to assume it’s probably shady. For these reasons, I give Tumblr a 2/5 star rating, and if you must use it, install tracker blockers and be careful how you use the platform.”

Privacy expert Dylan Curran gives Tumblr 2 out of 5 stars

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