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TikTok and Keystroke Tracking: What to Know

August 26th, 2022

TikTok, it was recently revealed, can track your keystrokes. Sounds sketchy, right? It is. If you or your kids use TikTok, here’s what you need to know.

First, a reminder of a universal rule: Free isn’t free. Apps that don’t cost money to download may appear free, but they’re not. There is plenty of value to harvest from data generated by your use of the app. Some of that data is innocuous, some of it personal. Collecting it comes at the cost of your privacy and security.

What does that have to do with TikTok?

A researcher detected a security issue that would expose people’s privacy when using TikTok. As reported by Apple Insider, Felix Krause noticed that when people open a link in TikTok, the app tracks what they type and what buttons and links they tap. This is keystroke tracking. And it’s wildly intrusive.

The TikTok browser adds JavaScript into external websites that users visit, so it can keep track of what you type (including sensitive information like contact details, passwords, or even banking and credit card information).

TikTok claimed that the code responsible for collecting this data was meant for “debugging” and “performance monitoring,” but the amount of information the app can gather should worry anyone concerned about maintaining privacy.

Since TikTok doesn’t let users opt out of such data collecting, you will want to use a different browser different from TikTok’s in-app browser.

When it comes to apps developed by companies outside of the United States, such as China’s TikTok, parents may want to think twice about allowing their children to use them. Their privacy can be at stake.

The Chinese Government

Consider that China’s government limits kids in China to using the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, for a maximum of 40 minutes per day, as noted by the BBC. What’s more, the Chinese TikTok is promoting educational information, such as museum exhibitions and content featuring scientific experiments and historical information, rather than only pushing trivia and new dance moves like with the U.S. version.

The issue with TikTok underscores the importance of staying on top of security news regarding apps and smartphones, for the sake of your family’s privacy and security.

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