Is TikTok Safe? Here’s All You Should Know About Safety on TikTok

MẸO INTERNET


TikTok is the social media phenomenon of the decade so far. But it is not without its controversies and a lot of people are questioning just how safe it is to use. In this guide, we will address all of the facts in turn, consider the risks that can be posed by TikTok and suggest some solutions that can make it a much safer app to use.

TikTok is wildly popular at the moment. It claims to have an astonishing 800 million users around the world and is widely available.

It can be downloaded in 141 countries around the world and, according to its own data, it features in the top 25 app downloads in 135 of them. In the first three months of 2020, there were more global downloads of TikTok than Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

But TikTok is not just a fun and friendly video-sharing app. It has been dogged by controversy since it first entered popular consciousness. It’s links to the Communist regime in China has seen a number of security and privacy accusations being leveled at it.

Meanwhile, concerns have also been raised by parents in many countries about the sharing of adult content and other inappropriate material among younger users while some have reported incidents of youngsters being groomed by older users.

Understandably, this has resulted in many people questioning whether TikTok is actually safe to use. In this guide, we will address all of the principal concerns that have been raised about TikTok and provide some solutions that can make TikTok safer for everyone.

TikTok and China: Security and Privacy

TikTok is owned and operated by a company called ByteDance which is headquartered in Beijing. This means that TikTok is a Chinese company and subject to Chinese law. For users outside China, this is a major problem.

Chinese law requires all companies based in China to hand over any relevant data or information to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) if requested to do so. ByteDance has always denied that it does this, but as a Chinese company, the reality is that it has no choice.

There is no lack of images of ByteDance staff waving CCP flags and being lectured by Party officials in their Beijing headquarters, so the idea that the company doesn’t comply with CCP laws is frankly not credible.

Analysis of the code that underpins TikTok doesn’t appear to support the company’s claims either. There is evidence of connections between the apps downloaded onto your devices and servers in China which strongly suggests data is sent back to China from all users.

Reverse engineering of TikTok has also revealed the huge amount of data that the app hoovers up. One analyst has described TikTok as being “a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network”.

Just some of the data collected by TikTok includes all personal information, details about your device, the other apps you use, all details about your internet connection, and more. Even more concerningly, the TikTok app appears to be designed to stop more tech-savvy users from stopping it from collecting this data.

Given the company’s close links to the CCP and its legal requirement to hand over data, it doesn’t take a great leap to conclude that the CCP is using TikTok to build up a database of users.

If this sounds a bit fanciful and conspiratorial, let’s take a look at how democratic governments around the world are dealing with the issue.

Where TikTok is banned

Outside of China, TikTok’s largest user-base in India where the app had an estimated 119 million users. But a couple of months ago, the Indian government banned TikTok nationwide, along with 58 other Chinese-based apps it accused of collecting data and spying on its citizens.

In the USA, President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order which gives TikTok just 90 days to sell its US operations to an American company or separate it entirely from the rest of its global operations.

In a statement announcing the move, President Trump said, “There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”

There is talk that a number of other democratic western countries are considering following the lead of India and the USA and banning Tik Tok.

Should you unblock TikTok?

There is plenty of evidence that TikTok does hoover up user data and is a threat to your online privacy and security. But, as advocates of a free and open internet, we think it is important that people make their own individual decisions about whether or not to use apps like TikTok.

These should be informed decisions, so it is important that everyone is aware of TikTok’s links to the Chinese regime and the extent of personal information it hoovers up. But, if you still choose to use it knowing all of this, that is up to you.

If you live in a country like India or the USA where TikTok is either already banned or soon to be banned, it is possible to unblock TikTok and continue to use the app with the help of a VPN.

How to unblock TikTok using a VPN

Unblocking TikTok with a VPN is actually extremely easy. All you need to do is follow these few simple steps:

  1. Choose a VPN from our list of recommended providers below and sign up for your preferred package.
  1. Download the VPN app. You should always do this from either the VPN provider’s official website or your local app store.
  1. Install the VPN app and then log into your account using the account details they have given you.
  1. Connect to a VPN server located outside your current country in a nearby location where TikTok is not banned.
  1. Once connected to the VPN server, you should be able to use TikTok as usual.

In some cases, users have reported still being unable to connect to TikTok. If that happens to you, it is likely to mean that you need to switch the location of your app store to match that of your VPN. Once you have done this, TikTok should work normally.

Best VPNs for Tik Tok

Perhaps the hardest part of using a VPN to unblock TikTok is choosing the right VPN for the job. Not every VPN is suited to unblocking TikTok, so it is important to choose the right one.

Take a look at our guide to the Best VPN for TikTok for more details on how to identify the best TikTok VPNs, but here is a rundown of our top 6 recommended providers:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is the best VPN for unblocking Tik Tok. It has uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption as standard and a massive range of extra security which includes a kill switch and DNS leak protection.

It is based in Panama so the privacy policy and no user logs guarantee are absolutely watertight. NordVPN has a huge server network with almost 5,500 servers in 59 different countries. You can also connect up to six devices at the same time.

NordVPN is one of the most consistently fast VPNs on the market and it has a wide-ranging selection of apps that are really user-friendly. OP top of that, users can benefit from a 30-day money-back guarantee and extremely affordable prices.

BEST VPN FOR TIKTOK – Get a huge 70% discount for signing up for the 2-year plan, taking the monthly price down to only $3.49.

2. SurfShark

Surfshark is a young VPN which has really hit the ground running thanks to its impressive range of features and competitive prices.

It offers 256-bit AES encryption to all users and a dependable no user logs guarantee which is at the heart of Surfshark’s comprehensive privacy policy.

Surfshark has a huge selection of apps for most devices and these are generally well designed and user-friendly, although the mobile apps do lack some features found on the desktop apps.

The connection speeds on offer are impressive and also consistent across a reasonable-sized server network. Prices for Surfshark are very reasonable and they also allow unlimited simultaneous connections making it a great choice for unblocking TikTok.

BEST LOW-COST OPTION: A low-cost VPN that works great with TikTok and puts your security first. Connect any number of devices. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN offers all users a wealth of security and privacy features and its super-fast speeds make it perfect for the video-sharing app.

ExpressVPN has unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption and a no user logs policy that is unsurpassed thanks largely to ExpressVPN being based in the British Virgin Islands. There are also a variety of additional security and privacy options on offer including DNS leak protection and a kill switch which should help your ISP or government spot that you are using TikTok.

Our tests found that ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN available and, crucially, these speeds are consistent across their entire server network. That network is a huge one too with more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations across 94 different countries around the world.

ExpressVPN offers a huge range of apps for almost any device so you can unblock TikTok no matter what you use it on. Their apps are well designed and really user-friendly.

Prices are fairly reasonable too and in addition to a 30-day money-back guarantee, our readers can also benefit from an exclusive discount.

GREAT ALL ROUNDER – Choose ExpressVPN today for its incredible security and privacy provisions and lightning-fast speeds. Our readers get an exclusive 49% off the yearly price, plus 3 extra months free on signup.

4. CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost VPN is the perfect VPN for VPN novices thanks to its huge range of extremely user-friendly apps. You can automatically set up CyberGhost to unblocked censored content like TikTok, meaning it does all the hard work for you with a single click.

It offers 256-bit AES encryption as standard, an impressive no user logs promise, and a good range of features if you want to be a bit more hands-on. CyberGhost VPN connection speeds are among the best we have tested and their server network is a sizable one as well.

Importantly, the CyberGhost VPN prices are extremely competitive and there is a huge 45-day money-back guarantee available. This means you get more than six weeks to try CyberGhost VPN out before you buy.

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a modest-sized Swedish VPN that offers impressive security protections as part of an impressive all-round VPN.

PrivateVPN’s encryption is among the strongest we have seen and it comes alongside a great range of security features which include a kill switch and DNS leak protection to stop you TikTok usage leaking out.

They offer a good no user logs guarantee and although there aren’t a wide range of apps available, they do cater to all the most popular devices and their apps are very well-designed and user-friendly.

PrivateVPN has a fairly small server network and speeds can be a bit mixed on some servers. But if your main issue is security and you want to use TikTok without getting caught, PrivateVPN is another good option.

6. IPVanish

IPVanish has enjoyed a huge resurgence in the past year or so and its excellent all-round service makes it ideal for unblocking TikTok.

With IPVanish, you still get 256-bit AES encryption as standard, a kill switch and other security features, and a no user logs guarantee as standard.

They also offer a large server network and impressive and consistent connection speeds while continuing to maintain their reputation for superb apps that are as easy to use and well-designed as they always have been.

IPVanish is still reasonably priced but they have extended their money-back guarantee to 30 days and also now allow an unlimited number of devices to be connected to their network simultaneously.

Child safety on Tik Tok

As well as the various security and privacy concerns that we have already outlined, the other big concern that has been expressed about the app is around user safety. Particularly, since TikTok’s user-base largely consists of children and young people, there have been a number of concerns about child safety.

The aim of TikTok is to make videos that attract the largest number of users possible. Some TikTok users have achieved fame and fortune and it is seen as an ideal platform for musicians, actors, comedians, artists, and other influencers to attract a following. A lot of young users are keen to follow in their footsteps.

This is a problem because if you use TikTok in its default state, videos uploaded by children and young viewers can be viewed by anyone. If it does go viral, this could amount to millions of people seeing it.

Like a lot of social media platforms, people can register on Tik Tok anonymously and while most of the users are children and young people, there is also no shortage of stalkers, cyber-bullies, pedophiles, and other predators using the platform too.

TikTok’s handling of these individuals has been pretty unimpressive so far and many parents continue to have ongoing concerns.

Making a TikTok account private

If you want to protect your child from these risks, an obvious solution is to make their TikTok account private. This may meet with some resistance from your child, but if their well-being and safety on TikTok is your top priority, it is a sensible step to take.

Making a TikTok account private is not too tricky. All you have to do is following these simple steps:

  1. Open TikTok and visit the accounts profile page which can be found in the top right corner of the screen.
  1. Go to the Settings menu. This is the icon with three dots in the top right corner of your profile.
  1. Click on the Privacy and Security option.
  1. Click Enable Private Account.

This will help to limit the number of people who can see your child’s videos and uploaded content.

But it doesn’t stop your child from potentially being contacted by other random TikTok users. This can be done either by the app’s private messages function or in the comments underneath videos.

If you want to stop strangers from being able to contact your child in this way, you can do so by disabling TikTok’s ‘Allow Others To Find Me’ function. You can do this quite easily too by following these few steps:

  1. Open TikTok and visit the accounts profile page which can be found in the top right corner of the screen.
  1. Go to the Settings menu. This is the icon with three dots in the top right corner of your profile.
  1. Click on the Privacy and Security option.
  1. Switch off the ‘Allow Others To Find Me’ function.

If you are worried that your child might access inappropriate content on TikTok, the platform is more geared up to help. Adult content is routinely blocked from accounts of people who register themselves as being underage.

However, some children have been known to use a fake date of birth to register for an account and this would allow them to view adult content. A simple way to stop this is to check your child’s account details, to make sure they have used an appropriate date of birth.

TikTok Family Pairing

TikTok has faced no shortage of criticism of its failure to protect young users and recently, it has finally reacted with a positive development; family pairing.

TikTok family pairing works by allowing an adult TikTok account to a child’s one. Once the accounts are paired, parents can turn on TikTok’s “restricted” mode to limit the potential for inappropriate content to be served and turn off or limit who their child can send direct messages to.

Family pairing is a definite step in the right direction, but it is not a panacea to all of TikTok’s safety issues. It also presupposes that parents have an account of their own, which many won’t. Some cynics have even suggested it is a ploy by TikTok to drive up account numbers.

We would advise readers to use the Family Pairing’ feature if they can but they still need to closely monitor what their kids are doing on TikTok if they really want them to be safe.

Dangerous TikTok challenges

TikTok is home to all sorts of different content, some of which is far more family-friendly than others. One popular content type which has caused all sorts of different safety concerns is challenges.

Challenges are when young people encourage each other to record themselves doing various outlandish or dangerous tasks and to upload what happens. Often these videos are highly entertaining, but sometimes the challenges go too far and can be extremely dangerous.

A few dangerous challenges that have attracted attention and concerns in recent times include:

  • The Plug Challenge – This challenge involves kids pushing a coin behind a partially inserted phone charger to see what happens. Often this is sparks and blackened sockets, but the challenge has also caused major house fires and even resulted in deaths.
  • The Skullbreaker Challenge – In this challenge, a young person jumps into the air and their friend kicks their legs out from under them. This challenge has resulted in numerous injuries including serious spinal and skull fractures.
  • The Concussion Challenge – This challenge involves a group of kids standing together in a group and throwing an object in the air before seeing whose head it hits. Inevitably, numerous head injuries have been incurred as a result.
  • The Cereal Challenge – This involves TikTok users lying on their back and their mouths being used as a cereal bowl. It has a huge risk of choking and also the spreading of coronavirus.

There are many more and they can be extremely dangerous, yet TikTok users can often face a huge amount of peer pressure to participate.

The only real way to keep your child safe from this particular safety threat is to communicate the risks to them and try to make sure they use their common sense when making videos and having fun online.

TikTok scams

Like much of the rest of the internet, TikTok’s success has drawn the attention of hackers and fraudsters from across the globe looking to make a fast buck from unsuspecting users.

TikTok is packed full of fake accounts and scams and, as with other safety threats, the platform has so far offered very little to help protect its users.

Because any TikTok users can be approached by anyone else on the site (unless you change your account settings as we have highlighted above), all users can be susceptible to these scams.

Some of the TikTok scams that are seen most frequently and which all TikTok users should be aware of are:

  • Phishing scams and data thefts

Some scammers have crafted carefully worded TikTok scripts that are designed to play on user’s emotions, fears, or desires, to extort either money or personal data from them. Don’t fall for these. Be aware and never share personal or financial information with anyone on TikTok.

TikTok is all about getting more people to watch your videos and follow your account so it is no surprise that there are plenty of scams that prey on this. Lots of users and accounts will promise you free followers or other such things before diverting you to fake accounts which mine you for data and use your information to try and hack your accounts. Remember, there is no such thing as free followers.

In the age of the influencer, young TikTok users can be particularly vulnerable to scams involving their favorite influencer. Fake accounts will often promise access or contact in exchange for payment but once money has exchanged hands, the account dries up.

Romance scams are common on all social media and TikTok is no exception. Fake accounts with attractive pictures who show a romantic interest in you will often engage in lengthy communication before trying to get you to either give them money or share personal information. Don’t do either.

A lot of scammers will try and lure users off TikTok and onto other platforms with links to different sites and promises of romance or financial rewards. But all too often these links are scams and can inject malware or spyware onto your device or con you into paying for access to another site. Just like emails, you should never click a link sent by a stranger on TikTok.

Conclusion

It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that TikTok is not a safe social media platform. There are a myriad of different security and privacy concerns and also a wide variety of safety issues with young users particularly vulnerable to these.

But that doesn’t mean that TikTok cannot be made safer to use, if not completely risk-free.

In this guide, we have outlined the various threats TikTok can pose in more detail. But we have also offered some solutions too.

Using a VPN will let you unblock TikTok in countries where it is already banned. Parents can use the in-app settings to make their children safer on TikTok, and with a little awareness and common-sense, the risks posed by challenges and scams can be mitigated.

Do you have any questions or safety concerns about TikTok that we haven’t touched on in this guide? Do you have any advice for TikTok users that we haven’t put forward?

We always welcome the questions and comments of all our readers and try to respond to them all. So why not share your thoughts with us using the comment box below.





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