Report: TikTok bypasses Android's privacy policy

The app apparently accesses MAC addresses without permission. Google has significantly restricted their use since Android 10. TikTok hides the unauthorized data collection, which was discontinued in November 2019, behind additional encryption.

TikTok has apparently collected unauthorized data over a long period of time that allowed the app to clearly identify users and track their online activities. That’s what an analysis by the Wall Street Journal revealed. US politicians are now calling Google to immediately ban TikTok from its devices regardless of a possible US government ban on the app.

TikTok (Image: TikTok)By November 2019, TikTok is said to have recorded MAC addresses of its users, which the Wall Street Journal classifies as a possible violation of Google’s guidelines on user tracking. The data collection was obscured by an additional “unusual” encryption.

According to the report, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed that “the current version of TikTok does not collect MAC addresses.” In addition, there was only one general statement that the company has a duty to protect the privacy and security of the TikTok community. The app is also constantly updated to meet new security challenges. TikTok has also never passed on data from US users to the Chinese government and will never do so.

In a guideline updated in June 2020, Google calls on its developers to “not work with MAC addresses”. The company justifies this, among other things, with the fact that these cannot be reset, are unique worldwide or even survive a reset to the factory settings. Basically since Android 10 even only apps that have Device Owner authorization can retrieve a MAC address. All other apps, which should also include TikTok, are given randomly selected MAC addresses.

When asked by the WSJ, Google announced that it would investigate the allegations. The company did not comment on the loophole used by TikTok, which, contrary to Google’s specifications, enabled access to MAC addresses.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Josh Hawley called on Google to remove TikTok from its mobile platform. “So TikTok violated Google’s guidelines and practically hacked Android smartphones in order to track users without their permission. Google, ban TikTok from your platform and your app store. Don’t wait, “tweeted the politician.

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