TikTok was obtaining important information of Android users by tricking Google

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TikTok’s Android app reportedly collected unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices for at least 15 months, which ended with the release of an update in November last year. These unique identifiers, called media access control (MAC) addresses, are primarily used to serve personalized advertisements. This new information comes to light when, just a few days ago, US President Donald Trump passed an order to ban TikTok in the country. The app is accused of helping China’s Communist Party keep an eye on the US government.

The Wall Street Journal’s Report According to , the tactics used by TikTok to collect MAC addresses of Android users violates Google’s policy. The platform, owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, is said to have ended this strategy through an update released on November 18.

In 2013, Apple prevented third-party app developers from collecting MAC addresses of iPhone users. Google followed that suit in 2015 and banned apps on Google Play from collecting “personally identifiable device identifiers”, including users’ MAC addresses and IMEI numbers. However, TikTok reportedly adopted the “Circuit method” and circumvented Google’s ban by using a different strategy.

The timing of this discovery is quite interesting, as the Indian government banned TikTok in late June and the US is also looking to repeat the move. The order passed by the US President last week could remove the app from both the Apple App Store and Google Play as well as make advertising on the platforms illegal. On the other hand, on the contrary, companies like Microsoft are showing interest in taking over TikTok’s global operations to utilize TikTok’s unique presence in the market.

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