TikTok is in trouble yet again as a new report by Wall Street Journal suggests that the short video sharing app had been tracking Android users via their MAC addresses. Apparently the app bypassed Google’s privacy safeguard to collect unique identifiers from mobile devices to track millions of users online.
While this practice ended in November last year, experts believe that the exploit was concealed by adding a hidden layer of encryption, which seems to have violated Google’s policies that limit how apps track people. The company is committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the TikTok community. Like our peers, we constantly update our app to keep up with evolving security challenges," said a TikTok spokesperson and assured that the latest version of the app does not collect MAC addresses.
This comes at a time when TikTok is facing scrutiny by the U.S. government that claims its parent company, ByteDance Ltd is collecting data that could be used by the Chinese government to track U.S. government employees or contractors. While collecting MAC addresses is primarily done to target advertisements, the White House believes that users’ data could be obtained by the Chinese government and “used to build detailed dossiers on individuals for blackmail or espionage.”
TikTok was recently reported to be preparing to sue the Trump administration in an attempt to save its business in the United States. The company claimed that the privacy and national security concerns cited as the basis for its planned ban on the app are baseless. However, the latest development could backfire these plans. ByteDance is already facing troubles in India with the recent ban of over 100 Chinese apps over the recent cross-border tension in the Galwan valley.