TikTok shares your data more than any other social media app: study

Two of your social media apps might be collecting a lot of data about you — and you might not like what one of them is doing with it.

That’s according to a recent study, published last month by mobile marketing firm URL Genius, which found that YouTube and TikTok track users’ personal data more than any other social media app.

The study found that YouTube, which is owned by Google, primarily collects your personal data for its own purposes, such as tracking your online search history, or even your location, to serve you relevant advertisements. But TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, primarily allows third-party trackers to collect your data — and from there it’s hard to tell what’s going on with it.

With third-party trackers, it’s essentially impossible to track who is tracking your data or what information they collect, from what messages you interact – and how long you spend on each – to your physical location and any other personal information you share. with the app.

As the study noted, third-party trackers can track your activity on other sites even after you leave the app.

To conduct the study, URL Genius used Apple’s iOS Record App Activity feature to count the number of different domains that track a user’s activity on 10 different social media apps – YouTube, TikTok, Twitter , Telegram, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Messenger and Whatsapp – in a single visit, even before logging into your account.

YouTube and TikTok lead the other apps with 14 network contacts each, which is significantly higher than the average number of six network contacts per app in the study. Those numbers are likely all higher for users who are logged into accounts on those apps, the study notes.

Ten of YouTube’s trackers were proprietary network contacts, meaning the platform tracked user activity for its own purposes. Four of the contacts were from third-party domains, meaning the social platform allowed a handful of mysterious third parties to collect information and track user activity.

For TikTok, the results were even more mysterious: 13 of the network’s 14 contacts on the popular social media app came from third parties. According to the study, third-party tracking occurred even when users did not agree to allow tracking in each app’s settings.

“Consumers are currently unable to see what data is being shared with third-party networks, or how their data will be used,” the report’s authors wrote.

In October, Wired released a guide on how TikTok tracks user data, including your location, search history, IP address, videos you watch and how long you spend watching them. According to this guide, TikTok can “infer” personal characteristics from your age range to your gender based on other information it collects. Google and other sites do the same, a practice called “inferred demographics.”

TikTok has faced criticism in the past over the way the company collects and uses data, especially from young users, including claims that the company has transferred some private user data to servers. Chinese.

As CNBC noted last year, TikTok’s privacy policy says the app can share user data with its Chinese parent company, though it claims to use security measures to “protect sensitive data.” users”.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok in the United States over concerns about the app’s data security policies, before current President Joe Biden reversed those claims. threats and order a review of potential security threats posed by foreign-owned applications.

Neither TikTok nor YouTube immediately responded to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

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