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If I delete TikTok, can it still collect my data? Your questions answered

We're back to answer more of your questions about TikTok's privacy concerns in the wake of the government's decision to ban it from government-issued devices.

Also: What does TikTok do with the data it collects?

A TikTok logo is seen in an illustrative photo image, taken in July 2021.
Canada banned the social media app on government-issued devices on Feb. 27, following a review by Canada's chief information officer, who determined the app 'presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.' (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

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We answered your TikTok questions in the wake of the government's decision to ban the video-sharing platform from all federal government devices.

But you had more questions. And we have more answers. 

If I delete TikTok, it can't still collect my data, right?

Well, that depends on exactly what you are deleting. 

If you delete your account and uninstall the app from your phone, TikTok can't collect your data going forward, says Katherine Isaac, an executive at cybersecurity firm Carbide.

But that doesn't mean all your data disappears right away. TikTok will still have access to the data it collected about you during the time you used the app, said Isaac. 

"They do have in their statement that they delete data after a certain period of time, but it's not very clear what that period of time is."

TikTok's privacy policy also outlines a way you might be able to "access, delete, update, or rectify your data." 

They say you can request information about your data, report a privacy violation or ask about a particular privacy issue by filling out this online form.

If you delete your account, but continue to keep the app on your device and interact with the platform, TikTok will continue to gather some data on you

What can they do with the data they have? 

According to the app's privacy policy, quite a bit.

At the time of this story publishing, it lists 21 ways that they use your personal data. They include personalizing advertisements for you, ensuring you are old enough to use the platform and providing you with "​​location-based services."

Avner Levin, a professor in law and business at Toronto Metropolitan University who researches privacy and social media, says it can be tricky to understand exactly what happens with your data.

Aside from TikTok using your data, it also shares that data with some third parties like business partners, advertisers, payment providers, cloud storage providers and law enforcement.

Levin says the company's terms of service is what they use to allow themselves "the ability to share your information with as little to no restriction as possible to other third parties." 

I never downloaded TikTok, but my friends have it. Is my data possibly exposed through them?

Yes, it might be. 

If your friend allows TikTok to access their contacts and it includes your phone number, that information is now available to TikTok and is fair game for the app to use, Levin said.

"TikTok sees itself as being able to use that information, even though that third party has no interest in being on TikTok," he said. 

Another way you might end up in TikTok's collection of data is if you've appeared on screen in any photos or videos that your friends who use TikTok uploaded. 

"If your friend takes a photo of you and posts that, there are tools out there that allow TikTok to do image identification and figure out who the person is in the image and maybe even find other images of that person on the Internet that are available publicly, and match that to a name, or a person," said Isaac.


Harpuneet Nijjar

CBC News Social

Harpuneet is an Associate Producer and Social Media Editor/Presenter with CBC News Online and CBC News Network. She is based in Toronto and has previously worked with CBC Radio.

With files from Tyler Bloomfield