TikTok, the wildly popular but highly controversial social media app from Chinese tech company ByteDance, was collecting the MAC addresses of millions of Android phones without user consent. According to mobile security experts cited by The Wall Street Journal, the app was using an “unusual additional layer of encryption” for its covert data collection that the report said violated Google Play Store privacy policies. However, the app suspended the practice in November, the report says.
Private data collection is one of the reasons TikTok is in trouble in its two biggest markets – India and the US – while the former has already banned the app as part of a broader crackdown on Chinese apps. , the US President has threatened similar action if ByteDance does not sell the US operations of the app to a US-based owner by September 15.
Meanwhile, in response to questions from the WSJ about its data collection practices, ByteDance said it is “committed to protecting the privacy and security of the TikTok community.” “Like our peers, we constantly update our application to keep up with evolving security challenges,” he said. The company did not deny the report, but claimed that “the current version of TikTok does not collect MAC addresses.” Google has yet to release an official statement on the matter.
By this threat of an immediate ban in the US, TikTok is in frantic negotiations with Microsoft to trade its US operations. The Redmond giant has already confirmed that it is in talks with the beleaguered Chinese company over a deal that could potentially be in the billions of dollars. Microsoft is reportedly looking to buy the app’s operations in India as well, although there isn’t much information on that front at the moment.