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German newspaper: TikTok sends data to Facebook and other advertising company

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 05: In this photo illustration, the social media application logo, Tik Tok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on March 05, 2019 in Paris, France. The social network broke the rules for the protection of children's online privacy (COPPA) and was fined $ 5.7 million. The fact TikTok criticized is quite serious in the United States, the platform, which currently has more than 500 million users worldwide, collected data that should not have asked minors. TikTok, also known as Douyin in China, is a media app for creating and sharing short videos. Owned by ByteDance, Tik Tok is a leading video platform in Asia, United States, and other parts of the world. In 2018, the application gained popularity and became the most downloaded app in the U.S. in October 2018. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

TikTok violates the AVG in various ways with its way of tracking users and sending data. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung claims that. Meanwhile, there is also a charge against TikTok in the US for tracking children.

TikTok has around 800 million users worldwide, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung based on an internal document. In a series of tweets, the author explains how TikTok exactly tracks users and where that data goes. Data about watched videos and search terms goes to Facebook and AppsFlyer. The latter is a company that does business with 4500 advertising companies. TikTok owner ByteDance does not mean to which companies the data goes. “We are not showing any contracts,” the company said.

Tracking is done via identifiers in URLs and via canvas and audio fingerprinting. In addition, the app draws a png in the background or lets the phone produce a sound without input from the microphone or output from the speakers. This combination of data is unique per telephone so that TikTok can track individual telephones. Because ByteDance and Facebook cannot show where the data is going and give no way to delete it, the companies are breaking the General Data Protection Regulation, according to the newspaper. The newspaper also says that TikTok uses various pieces of software without a license, including Zepto.js, FingerprintJS and Murmur Hash.

In the meantime, some parents in the US have sued TikTok for collecting data about their minor children without permission. In addition, the app, which until two years ago was called Musical.ly, did not say that it was collecting data and giving it to advertisers. TikTok says in a response to The Verge that a solution will soon be found for the objections of the parents.

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