First off, what is TikTok exactly? TikTok started as two separately owned apps from creators in China. In 2018, ByteDance bought Music.ly and merged the apps into one, and expanded the app now called TikTok into a worldwide app (Tidy & Galer, 2020). TikTok allows users to share their videos with the world and their advanced algorithm helps users easily find content related to their interests.
So, what information does TikTok collect? According to TikTok’s policy, they automatically collect user information, device information, location data, messages, metadata, and cookies (TikTok, 2020). User information is the information you provide when registering your account, such as name and email, as well as the security information you provide for account security. Device and location data includes your IP address, what type of device your using, phone service carrier, internet provider, and your gps location (if permitted). Any messages and content you create or share on the platform will be collected as well as what your preferences are and the content you interact with more so the algorithm can keep the content you see relevant.
Next, what does TikTok do with the information? TikTok uses the information they collect to troubleshoot and improve the app as needed, keep each user’s experience relative to their interests, and promote compatible advertisements. TikTok also uses information to enforce the user agreements such as age being 13 and over. TikTok also shares information with third parties and business parties. Although their policy states they do not sell your information, they do state they will share your information with business partners such as payment processors, technical support, advertisers and even researchers. Also, if TikTok decides to merge with another company, sell their company or assets, or consolidate, they are allowed to share your information with the parties involved.
So, whether you’re posting a quick video of a library haul or reviewing a book, remember to be mindful of what information you’re allowing the world access to. It’s becoming more important than ever to be vigilant in keeping your privacy while online.
For those who may be interested in some further reading, this article I found on the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Blog is interesting! https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/11/07/pinterest-linkedin-election-disinfo/
BBC. (2020, July 20). TikTok: We are not ‘under the thumb’ of China. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53469766
Graham, J. (2020, August 6). TikTok and privacy: What’s the problem? Perhaps the video-sharing app gathers too much data. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/08/06/tiktok-any-worse-privacy-and-data-mining-than-facebook/3311726001/
Tidy, J. & Galer, S. (2020, August 5). TikTok: The story of a social media giant. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53640724