TikTok is under near-constant fire for infringing on its users’ privacy. From congressional hearings to inflammatory news posts, the message is clear: TikTok is collecting your data. However, most reports aren’t clear on exactly what type of personal information it collects.
Like most social media sites, we’re really the product that it’s selling. We share some of our data in return for free access, and instead of charging us, the sites make money by selling this info to advertisers. But what exactly are we trading? Here’s a rundown of the information TikTok has on you
What Does TikTok Know About Me?
- Your account and billing information.
- Your phone and social media contacts, purchases you make from its partners, and the content of your device’s clipboard.
- Several alarming details, including your face and voiceprints, the names and types of apps and files on your device, and information from any other devices you use.
Let’s look at these in more depth.
General and Account Information
Most of the information that TikTok keeps is benign account information, like your name, age, username, password, email address, phone number, location, and your public profile information from other social media accounts. If you have purchased something through the app, like coins or gifts, it also stores your credit card and billing information. This is standard; most sites you have an account with hold this information about you.
TikTok also stores information about your device. To track your location, it needs to know your IP address or your SIM card details. It also records your cell phone carrier, time zone settings, operating system, device model, battery level, audio settings, connected devices, and screen resolution.
It tracks the kind of videos you watch and create. If you’re a creator, it stores information about the scenery and objects in your videos. The app sometimes uploads drafts before you choose to save them. It likely has copies of videos you never intended to publish.
In addition, TikTok records your comments and direct messages. It doesn’t use end-to-end encryption and maintains its right to access your messages at will. Although it’s unlikely that TikTok staff are checking your messages, they can.
Invasive Personal Details
TikTok retains the names and information of everyone in your phone and social media contacts, but only if you’ve initiated this through the Add friends function. It does not collect this data without your permission.
When you paste things into the app or use its share function to send a video to a friend, it records the files and text that are already on your device’s clipboard. It also tracks your actions and viewing history on other apps owned by its parent company, ByteDance.
It also states that it keeps any information about you that is publicly available. TikTok is very vague about precisely what type of information this is and where it gets it from.
Alarming Private Details
A keylogger embedded in the in-app browser records everything you type. This is problematic if you purchase anything with a credit card, as it allows TikTok to store your payment details in a non-secure way. It claims that this is in order to troubleshoot if you have any technical issues.
TikTok also stores your biometric data, including your faceprint and voiceprint. It doesn’t offer any information about what it plans to use this data for.
It saves the names and types of the apps and files you have saved to your device. TikTok doesn’t give a reason for collecting this information, but it likely needs it to integrate with other apps and upload videos from your phone.
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that TikTok retrieves data from all of your devices, even if you don’t have the app installed on them. It links your contact and account information with your activity outside the app across all your devices to provide targeted ads.
Is It Possible to Stay Anonymous on TikTok?
It is possible to hide your identity from other users on the app by using a pseudonym and not sharing any information about yourself. However, it isn’t possible to remain anonymous to TikTok because of its invasive data harvesting and sharing practices. Aside from privacy concerns, several other things make TikTok unsafe to use.
Is TikTok Big Brother or Just a Fun Dancing App?
TikTok is invasive, and it does surveil your activity both on and off the app. This isn’t unique to TikTok as most social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram, also collect your private data. Whenever you use social media, it’s important to be aware of what it’s tracking and keep your personal information as safe as possible.