In a recent update to Apple App Store, they made it a lot easier to understand and see what data apps like TikTok, WhatsApp and Facebook collects. Just go into Apples App store, find your app and scroll / swipe down to App Privacy. For many of the apps, the space given by Apple is not enough to contain all the categories of data that is collected, so you need to click the “See Details”-button to see the full list. If you have not given much thought about the recent news about change in policy for WhatsApp or what data Facebook Messenger really is collecting about you, I might suggest you take a look at App Stores App Privacy to check it out, always better to know what you give up for being a user of the app. See below screenshot on collected private data from Signal, iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. A good way to get an understanding of how much data is collected in the different apps. In my view Signal and iMessage are OK.

Photo from Forbes, since they had already done the screenshot and stitching, thanks.

It is all about the metadata

Many might reason that you do not have anything to hide, so you do not care what information these companies are collecting. That is plain stupid, you should care, simple as that.

Companies that collect data do not care about what you write or post, they only care about the data connected to each thing you post, the metadata. Why is that? To put it a bit blunt, they do not care about you, they care about clusters and signals. It is the same method US NSA, UK GCHQ and Swedish FRA uses. They look for signals in behaviour to take action on and create a more “personal” service. For us as users that means they publish ads that are personalised for us based on part of town you live in, search-history (from your ordinary browser), age, gender, political views, music you like, purchases made etc etc, but more importantly it also means that the content these services push to us, are very customised based on our metadata. This is also something that political players and foreign nations use to push users in certain directions.

What about TikTok then?

The thing that makes TikTok special is not only that it collects a lot of data, but that all content is driven by an algorithm, so when parts of the world realizes that TikTok has ties to the Chinese Government they get scared, but to be honest it is not that different from what Facebook does in most ways, but Facebook is an american company, so they get a softer treatment.

For the fun of it, here is the data collected by TikTok and below Facebook.

TikTok

Facebook