Cybersecurity organization Internet 2.0 recently published a report on how invasive social media and messaging apps can be. The worst five offenders, based on the company’s findings from their analysis tool Malcore, just happen to be among the most downloaded apps with millions if not billions of downloads and active users worldwide.

What is the Malcore report?

Malcore is a security tool. Released by Internet 2.0 in December 2022, Malcore uses AI to automate malware analysis, one that the company claims can analyze files and assess risks where other tools could not. The report Malcore published is an amalgamation of the analysis results it conducted on several social media apps.

TikTok — 63.1

Of the 21 apps analyzed at the time, TikTok has the highest score at 63.1, which is more than twice the industry average score of 28.8. The Malcore report shared a detailed result of its TikTok analysis that explains how the video-sharing app managed to become the worst in handling user privacy.

For starters, TikTok apparently has nine trackers—essentially pieces of software for learning user behavior through collected data—in its system. The app also checks what other apps are installed and running on the phone, persistently asks for access to contacts until granted, and collects device information such as the Wi-Fi SSID, SIM serial number, and clipboard data.

This is not the first time TikTok faced scrutiny regarding how it handles user data, and its developer ByteDance’s alleged ties to the Chinese government is why the app is censored in multiple countries. In its defense, TikTok maintains it is committed to respecting user privacy. As for the Malcore report, TikTok conducted its own technical analysis, calling the report misleading and inconclusive.


See also: How to memorialize or close social media accounts of deceased loved ones

VKontakte — 62.7

The Russian social networking service VKontatke ranks the second highest in the Malcore report. Score-wise, it’s almost just as bad as TikTok with only a 0.4 score gap between them. VK earned 62.7 points for having the highest number of trackers (there’s 13 of them) and asking users for as many as 28 app permissions.

Viber — 46.7

Compared to TikTok and VK, the third placer Viber is considerably less risky for the users’ privacy, although it still uses an alarmingly high number (11) of trackers. While you may enjoy free calls to landlines and mobile phones with it, Malcore’s code analysis of the app shows that it is potentially vulnerable to security attacks.

Microsoft Teams — 38

Next on the list is Microsoft Teams. With a score of 38, it managed to be just within what Malcore considers a low-level risk relative to the other analyzed apps. This Zoom competitor sparingly uses trackers but requests several app permissions.

Microsoft Outlook — 35.9

In fifth place is another Microsoft product, Outlook. This email client app earned a score of 35.9, mainly because of having seven trackers along with potential security issues.

Other social media apps that are popular in the Philippines got scores that are close to the industry average. There’s Instagram at 34.55, Twitter at 34.4, and Snapchat at 34.25. WeChat and WhatsApp earned scores below average, at 27.8 and 26.25, respectively. Facebook, a company that’s mired in controversies itself, surprisingly has a very low score of 16.55. Its Messenger app scored 14.05.

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