What Data Does TikTok Collect?

Kids are raving about TikTok, but most parents don’t understand it. But it’s the cause of some deep conversations on internet privacy.

There’s a pretty big debate about whether TikTok is safe to use. It’s really no surprise: many US leaders, including the secretary of state and president, issued statements warning users about the app.

So what do you really need to know about TikTok? Here’s some info to help answer your questions on TikTok and what the app collects.

What data does TikTok collect?

There’s an entire list of information TikTok collects on its users, including:

  • The videos you watch and rewatch
  • The videos you comment on
  • The keyboard rhythms you have when you type
  • Your phone and location data
  • Clipboard data1
  • Private messages and contacts2
  • Any information you share while creating your account2
  • Information from linked social media accounts

So, TikTok is saving all your online activity, including those funny videos you watch of people stacking cups.  It’s pretty scary when you realize just how deep this app can collect information.

Is TikTok less secure than other social media sites?

You might be wondering, how different is TikTok from an app like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram? The major debate over TikTok is because it’s owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. Because of international relations between the US and China, many people are concerned about online privacy of users.

Recently, a US company purchased a large percentage of TikTok, meaning that Americans own the majority of the app currently.

Does this change in ownership mean that you should be less concerned about the data TikTok collects? Yes and no. While many experts agree that the app is safer now because of the change in ownership, it can still collect the same data it was collecting before.

What can TikTok do with the data it collects?

Perhaps the most frightening part of apps like TikTok is that you can only hope it won’t share your information. The worst part about internet privacy is having a program or website sell your information to a third party.

Although TikTok promises not to sell your personal information to third parties, it maintains the right to share the info it gathers within its platform for business purposes.2

Here’s an important disclaimer: if you’ve forgotten how Facebook once sold user’s private data even when they promised otherwise, now’s a good time to keep that in mind.

Just because an app promises they won’t share your data doesn’t mean they’ll stick to their word. It’s always good to remember that when you choose to share information online, it’s out there and you won’t be able to take it back.

The best way to keep your information private is by limiting what you choose to share in the first place.

How do I delete my TikTok account?

If seeing how TikTok collects data makes you want to delete your account, it’s easy to do. All you need to do is go to your profile tab and click the settings icon. Go to Manage My Account and click Delete Account.

By deleting your account and not using TikTok, you’re stopping the app from collecting further data from your activities. However, this won’t erase the previous data you’ve already shared. Here’s a list of internet safety tips that will help you keep your information safe online.

How can I keep my information private?

While you do agree to TikTok’s privacy policy when you sign up, you can still take steps to keep your info more secure online. Virtual private networks (VPNs) encrypt your data so you’ll be safer online and from hackers. We recommend using a VPN if you want to keep dancing along to your favorite TikTok songs.

Best VPN services comparison
BrandPriceNumber of VPN serversSimultaneous connectionsDetails
ExpressVPN$12.95/mo.3,000+Up to 5View Plans
NordVPN$11.95/mo.5,760Up to 6View Plans
Hotspot Shield$7.99/mo.3,200+Up to 5View Plans
CyberGhost$12.99/mo.6,200Up to 7View Plans
TunnelBear$9.99/mo.1,500+Up to 5View Plans

Data effective 8/30/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Sources 

1. Geoffrey Fowler, The Washington Post, “Is It Time to Delete TikTok? A Guide to the Rumors and the Real Privacy Risks,” July 13, 2020. Accessed October 23, 2020.

2. TikTok, “Privacy Policy,” January 1, 2020. Accessed October 23, 2020.