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How to delete TikTok and clear your data

Posted on July 23rd, 2020 by in Privacy & Security.

An illustration of TikTok being deleted.

 

TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media apps in the world. But recently it has been criticized for over collecting data, using insecure protocols, and potentially submitting to the Chinese government. These concerns have even led several countries to consider banning TikTok.

If you are concerned that TikTok might be compromising your privacy, you can delete your account. Once you do this, TikTok says it will delete the data it collected from you within 30 days. (Some data, like private messages you sent to other users, might remain visible.) 

But before we describe how to delete TikTok, we will address some common questions about the social media platform.

Where has TikTok been banned?

For the moment, TikTok has only been banned in India. The Indian government put this ban in place on June 29, and it applies to over 50 other Chinese apps as well.

TikTok is also no longer available in the Hong Kong versions of the App and Play Stores, and users that have already downloaded the app will no longer be able to access it. It withdrew from Hong Kong shortly after the Hong Kong government implemented new security regulations on July 7, which allow local law enforcement to monitor and censor the Internet.

It is important to note that many experts do not think that this is a protest on TikTok’s part, but rather a move by Bytedance, the Chinese company that owns TIkTok, to keep the Chinese government happy. “Why would TikTok continue to operate in Hong Kong when Douyin is more aligned with the operational standards of the Chinese internet?” said Elliot Zaagman, an expert on Chinese technology, to the South China Morning Post. Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok that is also owned by ByteDance, will still be supported in Hong Kong, although it is not yet available in app stores. 

The United States government is also currently considering whether it should ban TikTok, and several employers have banned it, including Wells Fargo and the armed forces of multiple counties.

Is TikTok a spy app?

Technically, TikTok is a social media platform that lets users share short video clips. However, like any social media app, it collects a wealth of information on its users. In TikTok’s case, this data could eventually be turned over to the Chinese government. 

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company whose CEO has said the company would “further deepen cooperation” with the Chinese Communist Party. And in the TikTok privacy policy, the company reserves the right to share data with any organization in its corporate group, including ByteDance. This is why so many privacy and security critics have been raising the alarm about TikTok. Research has shown that it also makes copies of its data on Alibaba servers, another Chinese company with close ties to the Chinese government. 

ByteDance would likely have to comply with requests from the Chinese government for data on TikTok users. Chinese companies are required by law to support national intelligence services and there is no independent judiciary in China, which makes it hard for any company in China to refuse a request from the Chinese government. 

We have an article on the ProtonMail blog that discusses TikTok’s privacy and security issues in greater depth.

Should you delete TikTok?

If you have any concerns about your online privacy, then yes. We recommend everyone approach TikTok with great caution, but especially if you are worried about having large amounts of your data collected or fear you could be the subject of Chinese government surveillance.

How can I permanently delete TikTok?

Before you begin, you should know that once you delete your account, you will not be able to recover it. Even though your data will not be deleted immediately by TikTok, once you click delete, the process cannot be reversed. If you change your mind later, you will need to start a new account.

Once you decide to take back control of your data you will need to take the following steps: (If you live in a country where TikTok is not banned, you can skip to step 3.)

  1. Download a VPN so that you can access TikTok. ProtonVPN offers a free VPN service so that everyone can have access to a secure and private Internet. 
  2. Connect to a VPN server outside of your current country.
  3. Log in to TikTok and go to the Profile tab.
  4. Tap the three horizontal dots that appear in the right corner. This will take you to the app’s settings.
  5. Tap Manage My Account.
  6. Tap Delete Account.

And you’re done. TikTok claims that after 30 days, your videos and data will be deleted. You will not have access to your account or purchased items, nor will you receive a refund for your previous purchases. 

However, you will have taken an important step in taking back control of your privacy.

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Prior to joining ProtonVPN, Richie spent several years working on tech solutions in the developing world. He joined ProtonVPN to advance the rights of online privacy and freedom.

Post Comment

10 comments

  1. Benjamin

    I can come up with at least 10 apps who copies your clipboard.

    When do you advise to delete Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and the new app thriller?

  2. Richie Koch

    TikTok is far from the only app that accesses information from your clipboard, that is true. (I don’t believe we ever claimed to the contrary anywhere – if we did, that is incorrect and should be fixed.) And in general, yes, if you are concerned about your privacy, you should not use Google or Facebook.

  3. Benjamin Frendrup Jensen

    BTW – freedom of speech. That’s a joke. Why the hell should my post be moderated by Proton before it can be published on this board?

  4. Ben Wolford

    We moderate comments to prevent spam, abuse and harassment.

  5. Benjamin Frendrup Jensen

    If you think I should delete it because they collecting data – should I also delete these apps?

    Facebook
    SwiftKey
    Google Home
    Google search
    Google Drive
    Twitter
    Youtube

    Or should I keep them only because they are American companies? We can of course always rely on that the Americans always wants the best for us – right?

    I have not seen ANYTHING about what they collect – other than the clipboard. The apps above does that too btw. What info do they have about me? I have giving them absolutely no info about myself. The app uses 0 battery when closed btw. All the above apps collect all sorts of information about me to make a profiling. Tiktok can never do this.

    But Proton follow a thread where all American acts are their acts too. Cia operations in Hong Kong and Belarus – Proton support that too. I have used Proton for 5 years now as a paying customer both on vpn and mail. But it ends on November where I have gone elsewhere. I fear that this is another Crypto AG. And why shouldn’t it be?

  6. Ben Wolford

    If you check out our past blogs, we have written extensively about the privacy dangers posed by Google, Facebook, Amazon and others. We have written similarly about Tik Tok, strictly from a security and privacy perspective, and we will continue to share information to keep our users safe from companies that are harmful to user privacy.

  7. Tebs

    I think it should also be noted that Tiktok copies what is on your clipboard every few seconds. This was found to be true on iOS. Tiktok admitted it and claimed that it was an “anti spam” feature. Then they claimed that they never copied people’s clipboard on Android, which is very skeptical.
    They were/are copying clipboards even when Tiktok is running in the background

    With this being said, my friend who used to have Tiktok installed on his Android device told me that it was draining his battery while it was running in the background..
    This app is too sketchy

  8. Richie Koch

    This is a good point. TikTok was not the only app that was discovered to be doing this, there were a number of others. However, TikTok assured users they would end the practice in March, when it was first discovered. And then, in June, it was discovered that the app was still reading user clipboards. Read more here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/06/25/tiktok-stop-snooping-users-clipboards-iphone-update-shows-app/

  9. Chicken

    I looked at Mastodon and like it. Don’t misunderstand me, but it disallows “racism, sexism, transphobia”. Obviously most of us are not hateful of others, however there are opinions, articles, links and information being censored by a vague definition of “hate speach” perfect for controlling the populace. What is transphobia? For example, the defining, well respected comprehensive study by Johns Hopkins, defined transsexualism as a form of body dysmorphic disorder (essentially the belief one was a sex placed in the wrong body). This is similar to other firms if body dysmorphia such as a thin person believing their body is obese when their body is beautifully theirs. This was squalched a few years back to allow a whole new stream of massive revenue to Hopkins to open help to transsexuals. That “help” is the encouragement that their believe their body is flawed or wrong or healthy organs must be permanently removed or children who aren’t sexual beings take hormones is causing harm To those who need help and helping those who want us to believe all manner of disrespectful things about ourselves. I don’t like encouraging people to hate their body and remove healthy functioning organs they can’t ever replace. That’s not transphobia. That’s concern for fellow humans I believe are being exploited to an end. This shouldn’t be censored. There’s a discussion to be had which matters & which aligns with much of the other things happening today to create an Orwellian society. Who you love, how you dress, how you express, is normal for all of us. But when one says they “identify” with being a woman, what does that mean? Removing an organ? Wearing a dress and makeup? What? Because that’s not the definition of womanhood. A woman isn’t a dress or large breasts or straight or gay. My Personal opinion which is passionate to me out of extreme concern for others, is that there’s no need to assume your beautiful unique body is wrong ever. You aren’t in the wrong body. You’re in your body. And it’s beautiful. Today there’s a well funded trend to exploit this set of basically healthy homosexual individuals who may tend toward a more masculine or feminine look or feel or expression and make them a “category”. I contend there is no category of transsexualism. There are simply humans who are just fine as they are living who they are and who they want. They’re being used and the LGBT movement is not all on the up and up. When a movement censors every conversation about it, the conversation isn’t hateful And the movement shows it’s true cards. A movement that cares doesn’t fiercely protect sone harmful things by censoring conversation. This censorship denies free speech needed and most deserved to heard by those most affected. This is precisely what FB and Twitter do. We can defend ourselves from what one person calls “hate”. We cannot defend ourselves from censorship. Nothing is more dangerous or decisive.

  10. JB

    I don´t know if this is the right place for this, I hope it is. I see that at the end of ProtonVPN blog there are links to ProtonVPN social media but you do not include ProtonVPN Mastodon account, a privacy friendly alternative to Twitter, and you should be commended for running it despite not that many users on the network, one of the reasons is probably that many people will not know you have an account there if it is not listed anywhere.
    I would like to ask if you could add a link to your mastodon account when you list social media at the end of the blog. This is the address: https://mastodon.social/@protonvpn

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