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One Reddit User Claims to Have Reverse-Engineered TikTok, With Scary Results


Jun. 29 2020, Updated 2:09 p.m. ET

TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media apps, especially for teenagers. The app allows users to share short videos, and it has already produced a number of verifiable celebrities. While the platform has been praised for its many virtues, there are some who have sought to put it under even closer scrutiny. 

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TikTok is a Chinese company.

Unlike many of the most popular social media apps in the U.S., TikTok did not originate in the U.S. For some, that has been seen as a virtue, given the issues that companies like Facebook have had with protecting the privacy of the data that their users put on the platform. At first glance, TikTok seems to be a great alternative, one that comes without much of the baggage that American social media companies have. 

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TikTok may have privacy problems of its own.

While it may seem like a great alternative to American social media companies, one Reddit user who calls themselves bangorlol has suggested that TikTok is actually more invasive than any of its American competitors. The user claims that they have re-engineered TikTok, and that they are confident they have a good understanding of how the app works now. In their post, they said that TikTok is collecting a bevy of personal data from its users. 

“TikTok might not meet the exact criteria to be called 'Malware,' but it’s definitely nefarious and (in my humble opinion) outright evil,” the user said. “There’s a reason governments are banning it. Don’t use the app. Don’t let your children use it. Tell your friends to stop using it. It offers you nothing but a quick source of entertainment that you can get elsewhere without handing your data over to the Chinese government." 

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The user also said that the app's primary purpose wasn't entertainment — it was to collect information on its users. "TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device... well, they're using it," they wrote. The user also said that the app was designed to make it difficult to understand exactly how it worked. 

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"Here's the thing though.. they don't want you to know how much information they're collecting on you, and the security implications of all of that data in one place, en masse, are f--king huge," bangorlol wrote. "They encrypt all of the analytics requests with an algorithm that changes with every update (at the very least the keys change) just so you can't see what they're doing." 

Bangerlol has credentials.

While it may seem like all of these claims are being made without support, bangerlol says that he has done this for other social media apps as part of his job. "For what it's worth I've reversed the Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter apps. They don't collect anywhere near the same amount of data that TikTok does, and they sure as h*ll aren't outright trying to hide exactly whats being sent like TikTok is," they wrote. 

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