Amid its imminent ban in the United States, TikTok may be forced to deal with more problems due to improper data collection. O Wall Street Journal revealed that the Chinese social network breached Google’s rules by tracking millions of Android users using the MAC address, a unique device identifier that allows you to track activity on your phone and can be used for advertising purposes.
TikTok maintained the collection for at least 15 months and only stopped the practice with an update in November 2019. The social network did not report that this data was captured, violating what is determined by Google. The Play Store provides that what data such as MAC addresses are linked to identifiers for advertising without the explicit consent of users.
When opened for the first time on a cell phone, TikTok collected both a user identifier for advertising and the MAC address. This identifier for advertising was changed if the user uninstalled the application and installed it again on the same device. With the MAC address, which is not changed on its own, the platform could link the old identifier to the new one and thus maintain the account history to target ads more accurately.
The MAC (Media Access Control) address is a 12-digit code that allows you to identify network devices, such as the cell phone. Apple has prevented applications from collecting this data since 2013. The company was followed by Google, which restricted access in 2015. TikTok, however, continued to collect the information due to a loophole in Android.
What TikTok and Google say
Google told the vehicle that it is investigating the information revealed by the report, but did not explain why the social network managed to collect the MAC address even after the restriction.
TikTok did not explain the reason for capturing this data and reported that its current version no longer does this. The platform indicated that it is “committed to the privacy and security of the TikTok community” and that, like other social networks, it constantly updates its application to “keep up with evolving security challenges”.
The revelation about the improper data collection comes after the United States government has issued an executive order that determines the prohibition of TikTok in the country from September 20. U.S. President Donald Trump said in the decision that the platform poses a threat to national security and would allow China to track US government employees and service providers.
TikTok says it does not share data with China, but pressure from the U.S. could make the platform sell to an American company. One of the interested parties is Microsoft, which has confirmed its desire to purchase the service’s operation in five countries, including the United States, but is already considering taking control worldwide.