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TikTok trackers found embedded in US state government websites

Mar 22, 2023

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A security firm’s review of state government websites is revealing that the reach of TikTok is already embedded in its systems. It found that these websites are using what are called “TikTok trackers” that might be inadvertently helping TikTok collect data.

Toronto-based Feroot Security found so-called tracking pixels from TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, present in 30 state government websites across 27 states. The presence of that code indicates inadvertent participation in data collection. Even some states that have banned the use of TikTok from all government devices were found to have had TikTok trackers online.

The purpose of these trackers is typically to support digital marketing and advertising efforts, but the security firm’s report indicates these trackers can also watch and record people as they renew drivers licenses, pay taxes, or fill out medical forms. TikTok says it uses the trackers to improve the effectiveness of advertising services.

U.S. government officials from the president to lawmakers of both parties have raised concerns over how the app could harm national security, and a nationwide ban on TikTok is being considered. 

TikTok’s CEO is scheduled to testify before Congress on March 23 with a plan to spend $1.5 billion on safeguarding the U.S. user data. According to the CEO, data is stored in the U.S. and not in China.

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KARAH RUCKER: A SECURITY FIRM’S REVIEW OF STATE-GOVERNMENT WEBSITES IS REVEALING THE REACH OF TIKTOK IS ALREADY EMBEDDED IN ITS SYSTEMS.

FINDING THESE WEBSITES ARE USING WHAT ARE CALLED “TIKTOK TRACKERS” THAT MIGHT BE INADVERTENTLY HELPING TIKTOK COLLECT DATA.

TORONTO-BASED FEROOT SECURITY FOUND SO-CALLED TRACKING PIXELS FROM TIKTOK’S PARENT COMPANY, BYTE DANCE, PRESENT IN THIRTY STATE-GOVERNMENT WEBSITES ACROSS 27 STATES. 

THE PRESENCE OF THAT CODE INDICATES INADVERTENT PARTICIPATION IN DATA-COLLECTION. EVEN SOME STATES THAT HAVE BANNED THE USE OF TIK TOK FROM ALL GOVERNMENT DEVICES – WERE FOUND TO HAVE HAD TIK TOK TRACKERS ONLINE.

THE PURPOSE OF THESE TRACKERS IS TYPICALLY TO SUPPORT DIGITAL MARKETING AND ADVERTISING EFFORTS.BUT THE SECURITY FIRM’S REPORT INDICATES THESE TRACKERS CAN ALSO WATCH AND RECORD YOU WHEN YOU’RE RENEWING YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE, PAYING YOUR TAXES, OR FILLING OUT DOCTORS FORMS.

TIK TOK SAYS IT USES THE TRACKERS TO IMPROVE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ADVERTISING SERVICES.

U-S GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS FROM THE PRESIDENT TO LAWMAKERS OF BOTH PARTIES HAVE RAISED CONCERNS OVER HOW THE APP COULD HARM NATIONAL SECURITY – THREATENING A NATIONWIDE BAN ON TIKTOK.

TIKTOK’S CEO WILL TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS THIS WEEK – WITH A PLAN TO SPEND 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS ON SAFEGUARDING U.S. USER DATA – WHICH THE CEO ALSO SAID IS STORED IN THE U.S. AND NOT CHINA.


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