How TikTok spies on you on iOS and how to protect yourself ?

After Meta, it’s now TikTok’s turn to go under Felix Krause’s microscope. The founder of Fastlane, an open-source tool that facilitates application development on iOS and Android, looked at the case of the Chinese application. It is not much more glorious than its elders. Again, it was the integrated web browser that particularly interested him.

On social networks, many external links are offered. In the case of advertising, for example, they allow direct access to the advertiser’s site. Most often, the page opens directly from the application. For the user, it is the promise of a smoother experience, but it is not without risks. The social network takes the opportunity to recover some information.


In order to display ever more targeted advertisements, TikTok adds lines of JavaScript code to sites visited on iOS. The goal: to know what you are doing on the Internet to show you products that you have already seen or that catch your eye. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok all use this process, except that in the case of TikTok it goes a little further than that. The app can also know everything you type on your precious smartphones.

TikTok has access to your passwords

Felix Krause, in his study published by Forbes, details the process used. Concretely, the code integrated by TikTok can follow all your movements on the web. It is also able to have access to your passwords and identifiers. It does this by watching everything you type on your iPhone’s keyboard. Krause explains: “From a technical point of view, this is equivalent to installing a keylogger on third-party websites”.

He adds however: “Just because an application injects JavaScript into an external website does not mean that it is doing something malicious.” However, it is a very conscious choice according to him. “It’s not a coincidence or a mistake. It is a choice of the company”.

Felix Krause says nevertheless, because if these applications inject a code able to track the movements of the users, nothing indicates that they use them to collect the data on its servers or to sell them to a third party. The developer also does not say whether this data is somehow linked to users. Facebook had, for example, confirmed that the collection process was anonymous on its side.

This is also the axis of defense of TikTok, which justifies its presence by a simple debugging option. “Like other platforms, we use this embedded web browser to optimize the user experience, but the Javascript code in question is only used for troubleshooting and performance monitoring. This is what allows us, for example, to check the loading speed of a page or if it is blocking” indicates Maureen Shanahan, spokesperson for the company in a press release.

How to protected yourself?

To protect your sensitive data, Felix Krause gives some tips. He invites Internet users to not open the link when they are on the application in question. For example, you can send it to friends via direct messages. Then, you will be able to copy it and paste it in an external browser. Otherwise, you should in all cases avoid opening a link directly in the application.

Most applications offer the possibility of opening links in an external browser. All except TikTok which does not allow you to go through Safari or Chrome, to name a few. In this case, it would be better to copy the link and then paste it manually into your favorite browser.

TikTok

TikTok: continuous growth

TikTok in September last year has reached a new milestone: more than a billion monthly active users worldwide. Although it still has a long way to go before it catches up with Facebook in terms of users, TikTok is rapidly gaining ground in this competitive market.

The short-video app, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has surged in popularity since its launch in September 2016. TikTok said it had around 55 million users worldwide as of January 2018 , who have grown to more than 271 million in December 2018, 508 million in December 2019 and 689 million in July 2020.

In September 2021, the social network has reached a new milestone: one billion monthly active users“. Over a billion people around the world now come to TikTok every month for entertainment,  learning, laughing or discovering something new,” the ad reads. “We are honored to be a home for our hugely diverse community of families, small businesses and creators who are turning into our favorite stars”.

TikTok has seen a surge in downloads amid the COVID-19 pandemic, crossing the 2 billion mark globally in August 2020. Then, the app has been downloaded over 3 billion times in Setember 2021, becoming the first non-Facebook app to reach such a number.

With its 1 billion active users, TikTok is still far behind the American giant Facebook. Which declared 2.9 billion monthly active users at the end of June 2021. And far behind YouTube which also has more than 2 billion of users.

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Via: gizchina.com

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