TikTok — a social media platform owned by Beijing-based technology firm ByteDance — sends data to more third parties than any of its competitors.
In a new study, URL Genius leverages Apple’s new privacy features to track where various applications send user data. They determined that TikTok, on average, makes contact with 13 third-party domains — far higher than Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. Although both YouTube and TikTok use an average of 14 trackers overall, 10 of YouTube’s trackers are first-party contacts — meaning that it primarily deals with user data for its own purposes, such as determining relevant advertisements.
As CNBC explained, “with third-party trackers, it’s essentially impossible to know who’s tracking your data or what information they’re collecting, from which posts you interact with — and how long you spend on each one — to your physical location and any other personal information you share with the app.”
Security concerns with TikTok once drove the Trump administration to consider banning the platform in the United States. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you, the United States will get this one right too,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time. When asked if people should download the app, Pompeo responded: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
In recent years, the cultural impact of TikTok — which features short-form, user-made videos — has been enormous. The platform was the most visited website in 2021, driving more internet traffic than Google. TikTok is particularly popular among children and teenagers, who constitute the plurality of the site’s user base — and among American youth, TikTok is now more popular than Instagram and Snapchat.
Most recently, billionaire rapper Kanye West had a public feud with ex-wife Kim Kardashian for letting their 8-year-old daughter, North, have access to TikTok. West thanked Daily Wire host Candace Owens for speaking against Kardashian’s parenting style.
“THANK YOU CANDACE FOR BEING THE ONLY NOTEWORTHY PERSON TO SPEAK ON THIS ISSUE,” West shared on Instagram next to a screenshot of Owens’ tweets. “THERE’S A LOT OF CELEBRITIES SCARED TO SAY SOMETHING IN PUBLIC BUT THEY’LL TEXT ME IN PRIVATE AND SAY THEIR ON MY SIDE I WILL NO LONGER PUT MY HAND THROUGH A BLENDER TO HUG MY CHILDREN.”
TikTok is also known as a bastion for left-leaning content. A report from the Daily Mail indicates that videos with the hashtag “Trans” have been watched more than 26 billion times. The outlet also noted that TikTok is locking arms with Stonewall — a LGBTQ organization in the United States — to promote the material.
In order to expose the extent of TikTok’s progressivism to the general public, an anonymous woman launched a social media empire called “Libs of TikTok.” She told the New York Post in a recent interview that she quit her full-time job to run the project — yet “does not do this for money or fame.”
“I’m not some politician or blue-check journalist,” she said. “And people feel like they have someone they can talk to when they have no one else to ask to help them spread it.”
“With me, they have a place to reach out to to get the message out,” she added. “I feel like there are so many small stories that are so important that aren’t getting out — and that’s what I’m here for. It sometimes feels like a mini Project Veritas.”