TikTok found to be tracking user data on Android devices

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TikTok has been getting a lot of coverage since the last few days. The Chinese social media app that is already facing a potential ban in the United States, is now found tracking user data on Android phones via means that are against Google’s policies.

It has been reported that TikTok had been tracking users via the MAC address of their Android phones for over 15 months. It has been accused of using a security loophole to bypass the policies, access user data and conceal it via an unusual layer of encryption, as reported (opens in new tab) by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, TikTok bundled MAC address details of the devices with the advertising id during the sign-up, to track the usage. MAC address, unlike advertising ID, cannot be changed or reset. While this practice ended in November last year, TikTok did not inform users about the data collection nor did it provide users with an option to opt-out. 

Dubious methods

While there is no clarity if TikTok was following this practice on iOS devices as well, however, both Google and Apple do not allow applications to track devices with their MAC addresses.

While TikTok is not the only application that is following this process to track users, AppCensus reports that over 1.4% of Android apps exploit this loophole. Interestingly, a bug report filed by AppCensus in June 2019 had informed Google about this vulnerability. However, the fact that TikTok had been encrypting this data, makes its actions more suspicious.

This is not the first time that TikTok has been embroiled in a controversy. Sometime back it was found to be copying clipboard data from iPhones running on iOS 14. It is one of the many apps that have been banned in India stating that it posed a threat to the country's “sovereignty and security”.

Though Microsoft and Twitter are reportedly in talks to buy out TikTok’s US operations, a section of the US political leaders are calling out for a ban on TikTok. Hence, this news couldn’t have broken out on a worse time than this and a lot of questions will be asked from both TikTok and Google.

Via: AndroidAuthority (opens in new tab)

Jitendra Soni

Jitendra has been working in the Internet Industry for the last 7 years now and has written about a wide range of topics including gadgets, smartphones, reviews, games, software, apps, deep tech, AI, and consumer electronics.