TikTok and Privacy Concerns: How VPNs Can Secure Your Online Identity

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to make, watch, and share short videos of 15 seconds. It has become very popular especially among the students in recent years. Officially, the platform has more than 1 billion active users every month. For reference, there are 2.9 billion users on Facebook, 2.2 billion on YouTube, 1.4 billion on Instagram, 480 million on Pinterest, and 300 million on Twitter.

TikTok is growing exponentially even as Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks are stagnating. This growth has put the network under a lot of scrutiny. There are concerns over how TikTok collects and uses the personal information of their users. This is a serious issue because TikTok collects a lot of useful information from its users or subscribers. There are also concerns over the distribution of harmful content. But primarily, red flags have been raised over two major areas – cybersecurity and privacy. Concerns have been raised that users on this network could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Tiktok on the AppStore

Tiktok & Security Concerns

The network collects sensitive user information, which is often collected even without the knowledge of the users like their phone numbers, email addresses, and information regarding the uploaded content. Data that can be collected unto keystroke patterns, browsing history, operating system, name of the mobile carrier, device model and name, file types, file names, audio settings, searches conducted, time spend on watching the posts, messages received and read, contents of such messages, and such others.

TikTok can also collect information about your age, your photo, relationship status, personal contacts. Unwittingly, you may end up providing a lot of sensitive information. TikTok may access a lot of information even if you do not share it consciously.

More than 20 states in the US have already banned TikTok on government devices because of allegations of spying. TikTok is owned by a Chinese government. Many experts believe that the Chinese government may even use the network to promote pro-China misinformation and narrative.

In view of these concerns, universities in Texxas, Alabama, and Oklahoma have also restricted students from using the campus WiFi networks to access it. TikTok is banned or restricted already in many other countries as well such as New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, Belgium, Nepal, Norway, Taiwan, and Armenia.

Recently, the U.S. lawmakers extensively grilled Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok in a congressional hearing. This has raised even more concerns regarding the safety of using this social media platform. The House Energy and Commerce Committee even indicated that it may be completely ban it in the country.

How VPNs Can Secure Your Online Identity

People staying in the countries where TikTok is banned can still access the network. Those staying elsewhere can use it safely – just be sure to use a VPN or a Virtual Private Network. A VPN is like a secure channel between the internet and you. Any third party and even your ISP would not be able to see you through this channel. The device you use will be on the local network of this VPN and your IP address can easily be changed to the addresses the VPN’s servers provide you. When you connect to a server, you will get a virtual IP address.

A VPN has hundreds, even thousands of servers. You will just have to select a server that is located outside the country where TikTok is banned. The internet connection you are using through a VPN will be private. The VPN will encrypt your online activities. Your personal information will be protected. It will also block access to the hackers. This will lessen the chance of unauthorized intrusion and information theft drastically.

How a VPN Can Improve Your Internet Privacy

Good VPN servers offer many features that can boost your privacy significantly. Here are some of the best features –

  • Kill switch – This protects the data in transit against accidental exposure. The switch will disconnect you from the internet if the VPN connection drops.
  • Multi-hop connection – This will reroute internet traffic through many VPN servers. Usually, the traffic is rerouted through just one server. Your data will be encrypted many times while it is rerouted through several servers, which will lower the chance of data theft.
  • DNS leak protection – The DNS or Domain Name System translated domain names into IP addresses. Securing the DNS against leaks means rerouting the DNS queries by using a VPN server instead of the ISP for avoiding potential tracing.
  • Obfuscated servers – They can disguise VPN traffic, making it appears like normal HTTPS traffic. This will help you bypass VPN restrictions, helping you reach a server in your home country when you are visiting countries that have internet censorships.
  • Split tunneling – With this, you can use local networks for particular activities. You can also decide the services and apps to use in the VPN connection.
  •  MFA – MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication provides an additional security layer. There will be other factors apart from the password to verify the identity. The additional verification may require an OTP or one-time password, fingerprints, and other methods.

How to Use a VPN for TikTok and Stay Safe Online

VPN on Macbook

You will find many Virtual Private Networks that will help you access TikTok and also stay safe. Here’s what you will have to do –

  1. Read about the various VPN services out there and select one.
  2. Visit the website of the VPN you select.
  3. Create an account. Enter information like your email address. Enter the payment details.
  4. Now, install the VPN on the device you want to use.
  5. Login to your VPN app with the user details you have submitted.
  6. Select the region of the server.
  7. You are now ready to access and use TikTok.

So you see, it is very easy to use a VPN to access TikTok and stay safe. A VPN will defeat all forms of censorship, making it easy to access the network. It will also protect your online data. TikToK avoided a complete ban in the US during the regime of President Donald Trump. It may not be long before this option is again considered.

Remember, there are very real concerns about security and privacy. In December 2022, TikTok even admitted that their employees had spied on many reporters to find their location and track the source of information. Eventually, the parent company ByteDance fired these employees. However, it was also revealed that TikTok had plans of doing surveillance on various American citizens by tapping into their devices and finding the location data. This information was revealed last October by Forbes.

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