Amer Owaida, Security Writer at ESET explains how to keep your account TikTok safe and how to manage who can view your liked content, as you increase the level of your security and privacy on TikTok.
TikTok, one of the most recent additions to the roster of major social media platforms, has been enjoying immense popularity since its debut three years ago. The app is available across more than 150 countries and has hundreds of millions of active users worldwide. Millions of people create, share, and watch videos, as well as engage with each other on a daily basis, with some doing for it fun, while others are trying to make a career out of it hoping to be the next big influencer.
TikTok is also making headlines for other reasons, with India instituting a ban on the video app and the US government taking steps to ban all transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. The video app has also been fined by the United States’ Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and by South Korean authorities for mishandling children’s data.
The app’s users face challenges similar to those on other social media platforms; these include scammers, spammers, and cyberbullies. In this article, we’ll guide you through the privacy and security options TikTok provides its users in order to secure and protect their accounts.
Securing your TikTok account
When you sign up, you have the option to do so using one of the popular single sign-on options as well as using your phone number or email. As far as managing your account goes, TikTok keeps it pretty much straightforward and the settings are all unsurprisingly housed under “Manage my account”.
The platform allows you to authenticate your account either by sending a verification text message to your phone number or authenticating it using your email. To be on the safe side, you can go for both options. If you want to add a password, you’ll again be authenticated using a text message; only then can you create one. It may look like a nifty option, but it is worth noting that besides these text messages there is no two-factor authentication option, something that most prominent social media platforms offer.
Besides the standard array of options we’ve already mentioned, you also have the Security option in the same menu. This has an overview of any security alerts that you should know about such as any suspicious account activity. You can also monitor all the devices that you’re logged in on. It shows you the device, the means by which you logged into the account (e.g. Facebook account), and when. You can simply log out of the devices by tapping on them in the menu and then tapping Remove.
Privacy and safety options
This basically functions as your hub for managing all the permissions and access related to your account. When you create your account on TikTok, it’s public by default; you can toggle the option in the Discoverability section as well as if the app should suggest your account to users who might be interested in it.
As for safety, you could say TikTok tries to take a comprehensive approach. One of the options it gives you is to decide whether other users can or can’t download your videos, but currently, it is running only on a trial basis. However, users can circumvent the ban on downloading videos by screen grabbing it.
To exchange messages with anyone, you have to follow them, and they have to follow you back. The social media app considers these contacts your “friends”. So, spam or abusive messages from trolls that are abundant on other social media are limited by your contact list, which mitigates the risk since you handpick the people who can message you. On the other hand, you’re probably going to follow a lot of creators, so it doesn’t eliminate the risk of receiving dubious messages. However, what does eliminate the risk is disabling your direct messages completely. If you don’t want to go down that road you can also block users on a case-by-case basis; those will appear in your block list.
You can also decide whether users can duet with your videos, which means that they combine your videos with their own. You can choose between turning it off, allowing everyone to duet with you or limit it just to your friends.
As you browse TikTok, you will also see videos you might want to revisit later, so you like them. These will be collected in the liked videos section of your profile and you can allow everyone to see what you’ve liked or keep it private by toggling a switch in the privacy settings.
Moderating comments is also one of the options afforded to users. Again, you can turn it off completely, limit it to friends, or allow everyone to comment. The app also offers a filter, which will automatically filter spam and offensive comments when turned on, and you can fine-tune it further by adding specific keywords, which when mentioned, will automatically hide the comment.
Before and after uploading you can still edit some privacy options for individual videos such as allowing duets, comments, and making the video public or private.
This article should give you a pretty good idea of the privacy and security settings that TikTok offers. However, as with all social media, these settings tend to go through overhauls from time to time, especially since these platforms tend to be scrutinized about how they handle user privacy and data, so the best advice is to regularly audit your security and privacy settings. And while you’re at it, why not check up on your Facebook and Google accounts too?
If you are a parent, you might be interested in what kinds of parental control tools TikTok has to offer, which we will cover in an article next week.