Posted by on March 21, 2023 12:48 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

TikTok data trackers installed on state government websites, review finds

FILE – The TikTok logo is seen on a cell phone on Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. TikTok’s algorithms are very good at finding videos to keep people glued to their phone screens for hours on end. What they are not so good at, a new report found, is detecting blatant election misinformation in ads. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File) Michael Dwyer/AP

TikTok data trackers installed on state government websites, review finds

Christopher Hutton March 21, 12:15 PMMarch 21, 12:15 PM

More than two dozen websites operated by state governments were found to have web-tracking code installed by TikTok’s parent company, revealing the extensive efforts made by the China-affiliated business to collect user data.

A review of websites operated by over 3,500 companies and entities by Feroot Security found that 30 U.S. state websites contained tracking pixels from ByteDance. These pixels are regularly placed on external websites by tech companies to track the effectiveness of advertising efforts. However, the placement of such trackers by a Chinese-operated company attracted some scrutiny due to experts and lawmakers warning about the company possibly being forced to share its data with the Chinese Communist Party under current law.

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TikTok pixels “can be watching and recording you when you’re renewing your driver’s license, paying your taxes, or filling out doctors’ forms,” Feroot CEO Ivan Tsarynny told the Wall Street Journal.

The social app seemed to dismiss the allegations. “Like other platforms, the data we receive from advertisers is used to improve the effectiveness of our advertising services,” a TikTok spokeswoman said. “Our terms instruct advertisers not to share certain data with us, and we continuously work with our partners to avoid inadvertent transmission of such data.”

The pixels were found on a Maryland Department of Health COVID-19 website and a Utah website dedicated to helping people find jobs, but were removed after the Wall Street Journal contacted them.

TikTok’s parent company claims it has not shared U.S. data with the CCP. Many critics, though, say that Chinese national security laws could be used to force the company to do so.

The pixels on government websites illustrate the pervasive data threats that lawmakers claim TikTok poses to the United States. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interdepartmental agency that reviews transactions with international businesses, demanded that Chinese parent company ByteDance sell its stake in TikTok or risk being banned.


Congress has also pushed its efforts to restrict TikTok within the U.S. These include bills such as Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) that bans the app outright and Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-VA) that provides extra powers to the Commerce Department to analyze and determine if select business deals are security risks.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to speak before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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