Internet security company, Malwarebytes Labs, is reporting that, according to Consumer Reports (CR), a U.S.-based nonprofit consumer organization, TikTok gathers data on people who do not even use the app itself.
TikTok embeds a tracker called a "pixel" on many websites, often without the site owner's knowledge. Users accessing that website are recorded by the pixel and their user data and website interaction is sent to TikTok or Facebook to then help those tech companies create targeted ads and measure their effectiveness.
CR enlisted the aid of the security firm, Disconnect, to scan for websites containing TikTok's pixel, paying particular attention to sites that regularly deal with sensitive information, such as .gov, .org, and .edu sites. It found that pixels are already widespread.
This is not a new tactic by TikTok. Facebook/Meta used the "Like" button embedded on many websites to track users' browsing habits. That data was reported to Facebook/Meta, even if the user had no social media account.
Among other data, TikTok collects the IP address, the page a user is on, and what the user is clicking, typing, or searching for. Although the data is used for targeted ads and ad effectiveness, a TikTok spokesperson claims the data "is not used to group individuals into particular interest categories for other advertisers to target." Data collected from non-TikTok users, however, are used in aggregated reports sent to advertisers. "TikTok's "secret operation" tracks you even if you don't use it." www.malwarebytes.com (Oct. 04, 2022)