(PresidentialHill.com)- A former Google engineer is warning that the Chinese-based video platform TikTok has the ability to track user keystrokes in its web browser, raising yet more concerns over user privacy on the popular social media app.
Felix Krause, a privacy researcher who formerly worked at Google, found that the TikTok web browser has built-in functionality that allows it to track a user’s online habits.
While researching Apple’s iOS operating system, Krause noticed a hidden keystroke tracking within TikTok’s in-app browser. Krause concluded that the company made an “active choice” to include keystroke tracking, adding “this does not happen by mistake or randomly.”
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance has shrugged off Krause’s claims, arguing that his report is “incorrect and misleading” and the feature cited wasn’t for tracking user behavior. Instead, ByteDance claims the feature is only used for “debugging, troubleshooting, and performance monitoring.”
The company maintains that TikTok does not collect keystrokes or text inputs through built-in codes.
This isn’t the first time questions over user privacy on TikTok have been raised.
In late June, Bloomberg reported that ByteDance confirmed that some company employees based in China can access the personal information of TikTok users in the United States.
TikTok’s admission was in a letter responding to nine US Republican senators who had accused the popular video app and its parent company, ByteDance, of monitoring American citizens. The senators contacted ByteDance demanding to know if Chinese-based TikTok employees had access to Americans’ user data.
In their June 27 letter to ByteDance, the Republican senators cited a BuzzFeed report that TikTok’s US user data had been accessed by company engineers in China. The senators accused TikTok and ByteDance of using that access to surveil American citizens.
In a June 30 letter responding to the senators, ByteDance CEO Shou Zi Chew said that Chinese employees who have cleared internal security protocols can access certain information from US TikTok users. However, he said this user data is not shared with the Chinese government and is subject to “robust cybersecurity controls.”