An investigation by Consumer Reports has found that popular video-sharing app TikTok has partnered with hundreds of organisations to collect data on people as they browse the Internet.
The organisations in question embed TikTok trackers dubbed “pixels” in their websites, which lets them gather data for ad-targeting within the TikTok app.The information included in the trackers can be your IP address, the page visited, and what you clicked, typed, and searched for.
Among the websites containing TikTok pixels were United Methodist Church, WebMD, Weight Watchers, and Planned Parenthood.A TikTok spokesperson said the data was used to improve the effectiveness of its advertising services.
They also said if TikTok received data about someone without a TikTok account, the company only used it for aggregated reports sent to its advertising customers.
One of the company’s policies includes that advertising customers aren’t allowed to send through sensitive information — such as details about personal health and financials.
However, as was the case with similar policies from Google and Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Consumer Reports found this type of data slipped through on several websites.
The investigation has shown that TikTok is ambitiously expanding its online ads business to compete with the incumbents.
Disconnect chief technology officer Patrick Jackson said he was genuinely surprised by how widespread TikTok’s trackers had become.“I think people are conditioned to think, ‘Facebook is everywhere, and whatever, they’re going to get my data.’ I don’t think people connect that with TikTok yet,” Jackson stated.