TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the world, with roughly 1.7 billion users at the time of writing. Despite this, it has a poor record on data security, with a history of spying on journalists and multiple fines for improper data collection practices.
If you’re not going to be using TikTok anymore, we strongly recommend deleting your account. Hackers don’t care if your TikTok profile is inactive, and will try to compromise it regardless. If they succeed, they can use it to target your followers with spammy links, send direct messages impersonating you, or simply try logging in to other accounts, hoping that you’ve used the same password for multiple sites.
That’s where we come in. Below, we’ll provide a simple, step-by-step guide to deleting your TikTok account. We’ll also let you know how to lock your profile down, get a copy of your data, and temporarily deactivate your account, just in case you’re not quite ready to leave for good.
A quick guide to TikTok’s privacy issues
TikTok’s main attraction is its extremely accurate recommendation algorithm that can tell exactly what kind of content you like in just a few minutes. To make this work, however, the platform has to collect huge amounts of information, including your location, engagement metrics, and what kind of device you’re using. This, coupled with the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, led to several countries banning the app from being used on government devices.
In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Musical.ly (which TikTok had recently merged with) for collecting data on underage users without parental consent. Unfortunately, the company didn’t learn from its mistakes. In the following years, was hit with an additional fine for breaching European GDPR legislation, as well as a class-action lawsuit in the US. Additionally, in 2022, TikTok admitted that some of its ByteDance’s (its parent company) employees had improperly accessed journalists’ data to find out who was talking to the press without authorization.
Even if TikTok resolved its privacy problems, your information could still be at risk. In 2021, we discovered that a third-party organization had scraped profile information from 235 million users on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, leaving all of this data online and unprotected.
How to permanently delete your TikTok account
It’s actually pretty easy to delete your TikTok profile, but it won’t happen overnight. Instead, you’ll have a 30-day grace period to change your mind. Logging in at any time will reactivate the account, so you’ll have to actually move on if you want it to be deleted.
Follow these steps to get rid of TikTok for good:
- Start by logging into TikTok and opening the Profile tab
- Hit the three lines in the top-right and select Settings and privacy
- Tap on Account, then Deactivate or delete account
TikTok gives you lots of chances to change your mind, but be firm!
Choose Delete account permanently
- Provide a reason for leaving (alternatively, select Other and just type gibberish)
- Hit Continue
- Click the checkbox to confirm that you know what you’re doing, then tap Continue
- Select Continue again
- You’ll be sent a verification code, either via SMS or email. Type this into the box and press Delete
- Finally, tap on the Deactivate button
How to temporarily deactivate a TikTok account
Not fully sure you want to delete your account just yet? It’s also possible to deactivate your profile for 30 days, hiding all of your content while still having it available for you to watch. Here’s how:
- Hit the Profile button on the For You page
- Open the menu in the top-right and tap Settings and privacy
- Tap on Account, then Deactivate or delete account, and Deactivate account
- Hit Continue
Deactivating your TikTok account basically lets you take a break from the platform without fully deleting your profile
- Enter the code sent to your email or phone
- Press the Deactivate account button
- Click on Deactivate one last time. You’ll be logged out, and in 30 days, your profile will be available to the public again. Alternatively, you can cut this short by logging in again and tapping the Reactivate button
Protect your privacy on TikTok by changing these settings
If you’re going to use TikTok, a certain amount of data-collection is unavoidable. That said, there’s no reason to let other users find out more about you than the absolute minimum. To keep yourself as anonymous as possible on TikTok, we suggest doing the following:
- Make sure Activity status is turned off. This stops people from seeing if you’re active
- Disable all three options in Suggest your account to others
- Turn off everything in the Sync contacts section of the settings
- Set Location Services to Never
- In the Messaging tab, turn off Read Status
- Set Story to Only Me or Friends to stop strangers from viewing it
- Under Downloads, turn off Video downloads
- Ensure Liked videos is set to Only Me
- Turn off Profile views. This way, people won’t be able to tell if you’ve viewed their profile
- Enable 2-step verification
- Remove everything you don’t recognize under Manage app permissions. Ideally, you’d revoke permissions from every third-party app but a lot of people rely on them for posting to multiple platforms at the same time.
The best way to protect your privacy is to be skeptical of any unsolicited messages you receive and practice good digital hygiene. We recommend reading up on common online scams, learning how to spot phishing attempts, and using a password manager to make sure that one compromised account doesn’t lead to you losing access to multiple services.
Deleting TikTok: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I see what information TikTok has on me?
Yes, and TikTok actually reminds you of this during the account deletion process. If you open the Settings and privacy menu and hit Account, press the button labeled Download your data.
Users can simply select their preferred formatting (for most people, this will be TXT) and press Request data. You will have to wait a while for your download to be prepared, and if you’ve been using TikTok for a long time, this could be several hours. Eventually, you’ll be able to download a ZIP file containing your profile photo, account information, preferences, all of your videos, shopping history, favorite videos, comments, and direct messages.
Can I recover a deleted TikTok account?
TikTok doesn’t delete accounts instantly. Instead, it enforces a 30-day hold, after which point your profile will be removed permanently. This prevents hackers from immediately shutting down an account with millions of followers, but it does mean that more impulsive users will have a harder time leaving the platform. After this grace period, however, there is no way to recover your account.
Does TikTok delete old accounts automatically?
If you don’t log into your TikTok account for more than 180 days, your username will be changed to a random series of numbers. However, it will not delete your account outright. People won’t be able to search for you using your old username but anyone who followed you before will still have you in their follow lists. Additionally, it’s always possible that TikTok’s algorithm continues to recommend your videos to others under your new name.
We’d advise against just letting your TikTok account go dormant. After all, it’s just one more platform for hackers to target. Plenty of people link their payment methods to their TikTok account, so deleting your profile can help prevent identity theft or having your credit card info sold on the dark web.
Is TikTok banned in my country?
TikTok is freely available in most of the world, though it’s banned in places like Afghanistan, India, Jordan, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan. Additionally, many countries have laws against using TikTok on government-owned devices. These include:
- The USA
- The UK
Disclaimer: Although we’ve spent hours researching this topic, we are not legal experts. As such, nothing we’ve said above should be taken as legal advice. We encourage you to consult local laws or perhaps even seek a professional’s opinion before attempting to use TikTok if you’re unsure about its legality.