TikTok Caught Breaking Google Rules To Secretly Track Android Users—Report

What Would Microsoft Do With TikTok?

TikTok has been caught violating its own privacy policy and Google’s rules to secretly track Android users. A shocking new report in the Wall Street Journal claims the app was linking new installs of its app to the device’s unchangeable MAC address. In short, this circumvents Google’s policy to allow users to reset IDs used for ad tracking. Worse for TikTok, its data was wrapped in an unusual layer of encryption.

This new allegation is almost certainly linked to advertising, it also has echoes of TikTok’s secret clipboard access caught by Apple’s iOS 14 beta. More critically for users, it shows yet again that the app does not apply the level of rigour that any platform of its size and with its reach should do as a matter of course.

The WSJ says that TikTok stopped this practice in November—before its current security crisis in the U.S. escalated, before talk of bans and sales, but that won’t be enough to stop this becoming a hammer blow for the platform and its Chinese parent.

Right now, TikTok does not appear to collect more data than the U.S. social media apps that it competes with. But had this tracking come to light, it would very likely have prompted Google to demand a change.m TikTok was hiding the practice—it would have known it was violating its own policies and those of Google. […]