TikTok’s Privacy Policy


TikTokFacts18“TikTokFacts18” by The Daring Librarian is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The newest trend in social media started when TikTok, a video based social media platform, became wildly popular in 2018. The app tapped into the rapidly growing market for video-sharing and the book community has adapted remarkedly well. With BookTok becoming the newest big thing in the bookish community, I think it’s important to take a look at what data TikTok collects, how they handle their user’s information, and what exactly their privacy policy is. 

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. 

How does TikTok’s privacy policy compare to other social media platforms?

There is a lot of controversy over the safety of using TikTok. However, TikTok’s privacy policy is comparable to other social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The controversy stems from the fact that TikTok is located in China, where US or EU laws don’t necessarily apply. Chinese law compels businesses to allow their government access to their collected information in the case of investigations by the authorities. TikTok has addressed these concerns, stating they would refuse to provide information to Chinese authorities if asked but the situation still leaves some concerned (BBC, 2020).

However, others say that the most important concern regarding TikTok is the fact that TikTok collects data, a lot of it, and uses the information for profit purposes such as advertising. TikTok isn’t unique in its privacy policy and data collection though, all platforms collect massive amounts of data and use it for various purposes. “The information collected by TikTok is similar to what’s gathered by Facebook, but security researcher Patrick Jackson, the chief technology officer of security app Disconnect, says Facebook does more ill things with it, simply because it’s so much bigger,” says an article by Jefferson Graham (Graham, 2020).

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

TikTok. (2020, December 20). Privacy Policy. https://www.tiktok.com/legal/privacy-policy?lang=en