TikTok Has Tracked Your MAC Address: Now What?

Well, it could be worse. TikTok could be hit by a giant data breach that exposes your account credentials and private video clips to the world. But the alternative isn’t much better in terms of privacy: A recent Wall Street Journal report found that the popular social network has been tracking MAC addresses of Android users for at least 15 months, eliminating the practice only as part of the November app update. last year.

Did they disclose it to Android users? Not; not in a meaningful way that the average person might find, at least – tiny fonts in an unread privacy policy shouldn’t count. In fact, I bet they didn’t disclose it at all, given that the practice was technically prohibited by the Android operating system at the time. TikTok had to use a workaround for the tracking to take place, and then packed that data along with other identifying characteristics for ByteDance’s parent company. As Kevin Poulsen and Robert McMillan of the WSJ wrote :

“TikTok associated the MAC address with other device data and sent it to ByteDance when the app was first installed and opened on a new device. The package also included the advertising device ID, a 32-digit number intended to allow advertisers to track consumer behavior, giving the user some degree of anonymity and control over their information. “

If you’ve been using TikToking for a while, there are a few steps you can take to fix this problem, but be aware that the world of advertising is a mess. The more data leaks out about you, the easier it is for companies to tie all that data together and thus make it incredibly difficult to ever truly separate themselves from everything they know about you. User profiles are what adtech is, and you haven’t heard it just from me .

On Android, I would start by resetting your advertising ID. Again, this does not make you anonymous, but it’s at least what you can do to make it a little – a little more difficult for companies to associate their behaviors with you and your device. You can usually reset your Advertising ID under Settings> Privacy> Advanced> Advertising.

While you’re here, consider moving away from ad personalization altogether. This won’t stop apps from tracking you in a myriad of other ways, but it will at least carve out one tool from their arsenals.

Next, I would like to visit the Android Network & Internet settings (Settings> Network & Internet) and then click on Wi-Fi connection. Click on the gear icon to the right of the network you are connected to, click on Advanced and click on Privacy. Choose the option to use a randomized MAC instead of your device’s MAC, and it will be a little more difficult for you to keep track of that method. You will need to set this up for every Wi-Fi network you connect to, which will be annoying, but that’s an option.

Is that all you can do? Not really. If you really hate tracking, you can try using other third-party apps to break the connection between your phone and various ad services. Or heck, run all your network traffic through various privacy VPNs to try and limit the characteristics that might be associated with you.

However, there is no guarantee that the applications you download themselves will not be able to collect some information about you, especially if they track everything you do when you log in and use them.

I would suggest more ideas, but trying to keep companies from creating profiles based on your usage patterns, credentials, and persistent identifiers seems like a Sisyphean task. I run ad blockers in my browsers and redirect all my devices through the Pi-hole server that is running AdGuard and even then I feel like it’s a lost cause. I guess that’s the price I pay for instantly viewing photos of Pomeranians from around the world.

All you can do is equip yourself with the best tools and blockers you can get, and know that using another company’s app – especially when it’s free – means you “pay” for it with all the information others have about you. companies, mostly advertisers, can use crap to serve you.

But at least TikTok doesn’t scan your clipboard anymore . This is an improvement, right?

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