Lack of interest in technology can lead to state surveillance

The amount of information that TikTok collects is a reason not to click any link in the app again

Laurens Verhagen

TikTok is the fastest growing among all the major social media platforms, including the Netherlands. The number of users has already increased 3 million, with a growth rate of at least 75% compared to the previous year. It is no longer just running and dancing teenagers who use the app.

This is not the only reason why the original Chinese platform is under fire from various sides. In the beginning, there was an admiration for the outrageously efficient algorithms that propelled the use of the app to heights. Then came the deterministic countermovement in the form of a critique of those same algorithms. More than other social media, TikTok is all about responding to a user’s needs. Hence less on actual connections. It works so well that Facebook is hastily adapting its apps to give users similar experiences: more videos for the same thing, fewer photos of friends.

Anyone who has no problem with it and feels like TikTok serves up showing more puppy dog ​​videos will shrug. But that is not possible with the criticism that landed on the podium from a completely different angle. Recently, security researcher Felix Krause took a closer look at a number of popular social media apps. It specifically looked at what happens when a user clicks on a link to another site within this app. For example: Someone shares a link on Facebook to de Volkskrant. Anyone who clicks on it will see the Volkskrant website, but not on a popular browser like Safari or Chrome, but on Facebook itself. This practice is very common, but it is not necessarily good news for consumers, Krause appears.

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Facebook, TikTok, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram all add all kinds of codes to third-party web pages. Through this javascript code, they can get information about the browsing behavior of their users. This is quite amazing, because this so-called tracking is increasingly being discontinued by regular browsers. Tiktok is the farthest In violation of users’ privacy, according to the researcher. Where Facebook apps still offer the option to open the link, for example, Safari or Chrome, this is not possible with TikTok.

Moreover, TikTok collects most of the information. Including even keystrokes on this web page from a third party. In theory, TikTok can access credit card information that someone enters. TikTok emphasized in its response that it does not use this type of information in practice. This would undoubtedly be true, but just the fact that it could be enough to never click a link on TikTok again. If you really want to visit an external page (eg from a profile page), you have to put the link manually in Safari. More hassle, but just as safe.

Is there any good news? Yes, Snapchat behaves very nicely and does not add any code of its own to its built-in browser.

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