TikTok has seen its fair share of trouble in recent weeks, from a potential presidential ban to a competing product from Instagram. But the company isn't out of rough waters just yet. A new report claims that TikTok has collected unique identifiers from millions of Android users in a move that goes directly against Google's policies for app developers.
Over the course of at least 15 months leading up to mid-November 2019, opening the app would send parent company ByteDance the user's MAC address and device advertising ID — before any permission was given. MAC addresses don't change, so collecting them and associating them with advertising IDs could allow for app developers and advertising firms to create profiles of consumer behaviors that persist until the user stops using the device entirely.
According to the Wall Street Journal, ByteDance employed an uncommon added layer of encryption to shield the practice from Google, which prohibits the collection of any type of persistent device identifier like MAC addresses and IMEIs. While TikTok said in a statement that the “current version of TikTok does not collect MAC addresses," this is still troubling for long time users of the service.
Maybe everything that's happening to TikTok isn't just bad luck or poor political timing... perhaps it's just karma?