According to a recent study, two social networking platforms TikTok and YouTube track more personal data than any other social media app.
The study was published last month by mobile marketing company URL Genius. YouTube, owned by Google, collects users’ personal data for its own purposes such as tracking search history or even location, from which it can display ads that users may be most interested.
Meanwhile, TikTok, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, tends to allow third-party trackers to collect user data, from engagement with posts, to timing. posting time, their physical location or even their personal information. Therefore, it is difficult to know how the user’s data will be used. The study even warned that users’ activity on other websites even after shutting down the app could be tracked.
To conduct the study, URL Genius used Apple’s iOS App Activity Recording feature to count the number of different domains that track user activity across 10 different social media apps including YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Messenger and Whatsapp, in one visit, even before you log in to your account.
YouTube and TikTok top the list with 14 network/app contacts, significantly higher than the research average of six network/app contacts.
10/14 of YouTube’s trackers are first-party network contacts, which means the platform is tracking user activity for its own purposes. The remaining four contacts come from third-party domains, meaning the social platform allows a handful of mysterious outside parties to gather information and track user activity.
For TikTok, the result is even 13/14 network contacts to third parties. According to the study, third-party tracking still occurs even if users do not choose to allow tracking in the settings of each app.
In October, Wired published a guide on how TikTok tracks user data, including your location, search history, IP address, the videos you watch, and how long you watch them. Following that instruction, TikTok can “infer” your age-to-gender personal characteristics based on other information it collects.
In 2020, then-US President Donald Trump considered banning TikTok in the US over concerns about the app’s data privacy policies, before incumbent President Joe Biden dismissed those threats. and ordered a review of potential security threats possessed by foreign applications.