A new report by Canadian cybersecurity firm Feroot Security has found tracking pixels belonging to TikTok across numerous websites including US government pages.
The study looked at over 3,500 organization and government websites during the first two months of 2023 ,and found TikTok tracking pixels on 30 US state government websites in 27 states.
While tracking pixels - or web beacons - are typically used for collecting data to better target audiences with relevant ads, concerns have been raised about the information collected and how it may be used by the Chinese company and other entities in the country.
TikTok trackers in the US
Feroot Security CEO Ivan Tsarynny explained that the pixels “can be watching and recording you when you’re renewing your driver’s license, paying your taxes or filling out doctors’ forms” (via Wall Street Journal).
The app, which has amassed 150 million users in the US (accounting for almost half of its population), has faced scrutiny in recent months over concerns to national security in countries like the US, the UK, and New Zealand, with several TikTok bans placed on downloading the app on state-owned and official devices.
Some state government websites were also found to be housing tracking pixels from other Chinese-owned companies, including Tencent and Alibaba. Another country on the tip of many governments’ tongues, Russia, was found to have web beacons on some government pages, too.
Regardless of country of origin, web tracking pixels present a threat to users’ privacy worldwide with Feroot Security finding an average of 13 per website. Over nine in 10 (92%) of sites were found to have some form of Google beacon, compared with TikTok’s presence in just 10% of sites.
Some work has been done to curtail tracking, with Apple Mail users able to prevent tracking pixels from obtaining read receipts and IP addresses, however for the most part, consumers are highly exposed to the data collection method.
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