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Report: TikTok, YouTube Have the Most Data Trackers Among Social Media Apps

social media users
(Image credit: Pixabay)

NEW YORK—As consumers become more concerned about privacy on social media, a new report from Atlas VPN documents how much tracking goes on in various social media, news, music and sports apps. 

It found that among the social media apps, TikTok and YouTube have the most trackers. Trackers allow ad services to follow users around the web to learn about their browsing habits.

The Atlas VPN research also found that applications in the magazine, news, and sports categories tend to have even more first and third-party trackers.

The research found that TikTok app had 14 trackers, 13 of which were third party contacts that Atlas VPN said are the most concerning in terms of privacy.  

The researchers noted that “third-party trackers are placed by a website you haven’t even visited. These third parties can embed trackers on websites all over the internet, allowing them to collect massive amounts of data on you and share it with whomever they choose.”

The YouTube application has 14 trackers in total, 10 first-party and 4 third-party contacts. 

Twitter and Telegram each have 9 trackers in their iOS applications. However, all 9 contacts in Telegram lead to third-party domains, while the Twitter app tracks users with 6 third-party and 3 first-party contacts.

On average, social media apps have 6 trackers, of which 4 are third-party, and 2 are first-party contacts. 

“Internet users are starting to care more and more about their privacy, which challenges app developers to engage customers using first-party data strategies and tools,” said cybersecurity writer at Atlas VPN. “Currently, customers cannot see what data is being shared with third-party trackers or how their data will be used, creating a lack of transparency between the brand and the consumer.”

The report also found that magazine and news apps filled with trackers

Magazine applications averaged 28 trackers, of which 26 belong to third-party network contacts. The Wall Street Journal app, for example, made 48 total trackers, the most of any magazine app.

News apps averaged 23 trackers, of which 21 lead to third-party network connections. CNN application tracks their readers with 34 total trackers. Washington Post and NBC News apps are not far behind, with 31 and 26 contacts each.

Sports applications follow next as they averaged 22 trackers, of which 18 collect information for third-party contacts. ESPN app has 35 third-party trackers and 42 total.

Music apps averaged 21 trackers, of which 17 belong to third-party network connections. iHeart: Radio application made 56 contacts, with 51 being to third-party networks, which is the most among all apps analyzed in the research.

For more on the report, including a detailed breakdown for social media and news apps visit here

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.