How TikTok spies on you on iOS and how to protect yourself

by Johnson Daniel

After Meta, TikTok is under the surveillance of Felix Krause’s microscope. The founder of Fastlane, an open-source tool that facilitates application development on iOS and Android, probed the case of the Chinese app. From the investigation, Felix Krause discovered that the app allows direct access to the advertiser’s site.

TikTok promises a smooth user experience however, it seems to come with risks as the social network uses this opportunity to recover information from the user.

According to a report published by Forbes, TikTok is adding lines of JavaScript code to sites visited on iOS to display more targeted advertisements. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok all use this process, TikTok goes a little further by accessing everything users type on their iPhones.

The goal of doing this is to show you products you seem interested in. Meta-owned platforms are already known for doing this but for TikTok, there’s more to it as it gets to learn everything you type on your Apple smartphones.

Felix Krause, in his study published by Forbes, has shared that the code integrated by TikTok can access users’ movements on the web, even their passwords as well. It keeps a track of everything users type on their iPhone’s keyboard. Krause said, “From a technical point of view, this is equivalent to installing a keylogger on third-party websites.”

He adds, however: “Just because an application injects JavaScript into an external website does not mean that it is doing something malicious.” However, it is a very conscious choice according to him. “It’s not a coincidence or a mistake. It is a choice of the company.”

Felix Krause says nevertheless that if these applications inject a code able to track the movements of the users, nothing indicates that they use them to collect the data on its servers or to sell them to a third party. The developer also does not say whether this data is somehow linked to users. Facebook had, for example, confirmed that the collection process was anonymous on its side.

Maureen Shanahan, a spokesperson for TikTok, said this in a press release, “Like other platforms, we use this embedded web browser to optimize the user experience, but the Javascript code in question is only used for troubleshooting and performance monitoring. This is what allows us, for example, to check the loading speed of a page or if it is blocking.”

How to protect yourself from all of this?

Felix Krause shared some tips on how you can protect your sensitive data from TikTok. He advises users not to open any link when they are on TikTok. Since TikTok does not allow anyone to open it on another browser, users should copy the link and then paste it manually into another Internet browser- Firefox, Chrome, Edge, etc. It is a circuitous way, but it is also the only way to hide your activity from TikTok on iPhones.

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