Even if you don’t use TikTok, TikTok tracks your online habits

Even if you don't use TikTok, TikTok tracks your online habits

Like Facebook and Google, TikTok offers thousands of sites to integrate advertising targeting cookies. A survey makes it possible to assess this practice within a Chinese group.

Looking for shoes, train tickets or health issues? Your Internet activity is tracked by countless digital “cookies” across millions of sites. They belong specifically to Google and Facebook, which record your digital wanderings to better serve you online ads. But TikTok is now on their side, according to a survey released by the Consumers Association of America. Consumer Reports.

To understand the extent of the phenomenon, Consumer Reports surveyed 20,000 websites, including the thousand most popular websites across the Atlantic. The result: hundreds of them.”Pixel Tiktok“, a piece of computer code that allows each internet user’s visit to a web page to be recorded. The information collected concerns, for example, the user’s IP address, but also the unique identifier number assigned by TikTok, in order to draw a complete and traceable profile.

Sometimes important information

On Facebook, Google, TikTok, etc., all of this information is used as a marker to deliver targeted ads on one of their platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Gmail. For their part, brands that agree to integrate this “pixel” can buy this ad to convince a customer who has spent time on their website, but for statistical analysis purposes.

To collect as much information as possible, cookies from Facebook, Google and TikTok create a file for each internet user. IP addresses and habits are listed this way for those who use their service, in order to later find them and send them targeted ads, but not for everyone else.

As Consumer Reports reminds us, this information is not trivial when TikTok’s partner sites host pages that offer a lot of advice about the internet user. Examples of partners cited include popular food brand Weight Watchers, American Family Planning, or a site that disseminates information about erectile dysfunction. Also, TikTok’s terms of use prohibit sharing health-related information with its partners.

Although these practices are common and long-known in relation to Facebook and Google, they raise new questions in relation to TikTok: despite the success of the application, the number of Westerners who do not use it and who can be monitored in spite of themselves is very important. Additionally, the company is sending data to China, without specifying which ones. Like many Chinese tech companies, it has signed cooperation obligations with its government.

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