TikTok denies new report that it tracks Americans’ location data, targets individuals based on ‘personal views’
Updated 8 June 2018.
One of the key points of contention in the controversy over online video service TikTok is the company’s decision not to delete the company data it captures about its users from third-party applications it uses to provide video services.
On Friday, a new report in TechRepublic noted that TikTok had been tracking and storing a vast number of data about its users. TikTok had not responded to TechRepublic’s request for comment, but it has repeatedly said that the company does not engage in this kind of tracking. It said in July that it would remove the data from analytics tools it uses. And in early December, it said that its user data would only be shared over secure messages between its internal systems.
The new report, however, said that the company has been keeping records for years on who is watching the videos it produces and who has viewed them. These records exist in every user’s TikTok profile, it noted, even though TikTok says that its system of user data cannot be used to profile users, that the data is private and cannot be shared with external services, and that the information is not used to target ads at specific people or groups.
The report, which included numerous examples of data about social media users captured by TikTok using third parties, was published before any of TikTok’s data on users was deleted. The company’s recent changes were made only after TechRepublic’s investigation.
Privacy-conscious users have been wary of companies that track their location and activities, particularly with the emergence of services like Snapchat and Instagram that use geolocation to deliver targeted content or advertisements.
TechRepublic noted that the new data capture is more extensive than what TikTok has said it does. For example, TikTok has maintained that its data-sharing partners do not know if users are in the audience when a video is recorded. But this data is in one place — the user’s TikTok profile — and it is not entirely clear what information is being captured elsewhere.