According to a new study, the web browser used by the TikTok app can monitor every keystroke made by its users. This information is becoming public as the Chinese-owned video app deals with concerns from American politicians about its data practices.
The study by Felix Krause, a privacy researcher and former Google engineer, did not demonstrate how TikTok made advantage of the feature, which is included in the in-app browser that appears when an outside link is clicked. Krause argued that the discovery was troubling because it demonstrated that TikTok has the capability to follow consumers' online behaviours if it so desired.
Malware and other hacking tools frequently have features that allow them to gather information on what users enter on their phones while accessing external websites, which might reveal passwords and credit card details. It is uncommon for major technology companies to deploy a major commercial programme with the functionality, whether it is enabled or not, experts said. However, they may utilise such trackers when they test new software.
In a statement, TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet firm ByteDance, said that Krause’s report was “incorrect and misleading” and that the feature was used for “debugging, troubleshooting and performance monitoring.” “Contrary to the report’s claims, we do not collect keystroke or text inputs through this code,” TikTok said. Keystrokes may be actively tracked and forwarded to TikTok, according to Krause, who claimed he was unable to confirm this.
The study may create concerns for TikTok in the United States, where officials are investigating whether the well-known software might compromise American national security by disclosing personal data to China. Although discussion of the app in Washington had subsided under the Biden administration, new worries have surfaced in recent months as a result of BuzzFeed News and other news organisations' disclosures regarding TikTok's data practices and ties to its Chinese parent company.
Krause claimed to have only used the iOS version of Apple's operating system to conduct his research on TikTok and to have only used the in-app browser to track keystrokes.
Michael Beckerman, a TikTok policy executive who spoke to CNN in July, disputed that the firm logs users' keystrokes but acknowledged watching their habits, such as frequency of typing, to prevent fraud.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.