Two months ago, Reddit user bangorlol made a comment in a discussion about TikTok. Bangorlol claimed to have successfully reverse-engineered it and shared what he learned about the Chinese video-sharing social networking service.
He strongly recommended that people never use the app again, warning about its intrusive user tracking and other issues. Considering that TikTok was the 4th most popular free iPhone app download in 2019, this is quite alarming.
Last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed in California against Beijing’s ByteDance Technology – the company that owns TikTok – accusing it of transferring personally identifiable and biometric data to China. Despite a strong official denial from the company, the social media app has also been accused of deleting content that considered to be against the political interests of the Chinese government. Furthermore, concerns over how #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd content was treated by the app raised suspicions once again.
Analysis points to the conclusion that TikTok is mainly a “data collection service thinly veiled” as a social networking platform. Researchers claims that the app is collecting large amounts of data such as contacts, information about the phone hardware (including the screen size and memory), other installed apps on a phone, and network-related details (such as MAC address).
Other claims are that certain variants of the app are also tracking the location of users. The data logging the app is remotely configurable with safeguards to prevent users from knowing what is happening behind the scenes.