So You Want to Download Your TikTok Data? Here‘s My Expert Guide

Have you ever wondered exactly what kind of personal data TikTok is collecting on you as you scroll through your For You feed? What about how TikTok uses that data to serve you targeted advertisements? As a regular TikTok user, it‘s understandable to have questions.

I faced similar questions myself – so I decided to dig in and go through the full process of downloading my own TikTok data file to unlock some answers!

In this detailed guide, I‘ll walk you through how to download your own TikTok data, then provide my expert analysis as an experienced data analyst on what this information means for privacy and ad targeting on one of the world‘s most popular apps. Sound good? Let‘s dive in!

Why Should You Download Your TikTok Data?

Before we get our hands dirty with the how-to, let‘s level-set on why accessing this personal data file even matters in the first place.

Understanding TikTok‘s Data Collection

For starters, downloading your data gives you visibility into exactly what types of information TikTok is retaining about your account activity. As we‘ll explore shortly, this goes far beyond just storing the videos you upload. TikTok also tracks:

  • Video views
  • Comments made
  • Hashtags and captions used
  • Search history
  • Advertiser IDs
  • Derived interests for ad targeting
  • And more

Seeing the scope and depth of data collection first-hand is eye-opening.

Responding to Data Requests

What if you get hit with a formal request to share your TikTok data for legal reasons or as part of a job application? By already having your data file downloaded, you can easily access the requested information. No hassles or delays.

Auditing for Security Issues

Downloading and reviewing your data can also help bubbles up early warning signs of potential account security issues. Have multiple device IDs you don‘t recognize? Login timestamps from suspicious locations? These could indicate your account was compromised.

Hopefully that gives some helpful context on why we‘re going through this exercise! Now let‘s get to the step-by-step…

Step-by-Step Instructions to Download Your TikTok Data

I‘ll walk you through exactly how to request your TikTok data download on both iOS and Android devices. I tried this myself across iPhone, iPad, and my Android tablet for testing.

Follow each step below to get the process rolling!

Step 1: Open Your TikTok Profile

First up, launch TikTok and tap that little profile icon on the bottom right of your screen:

TikTok profile icon screenshot

This opens up your profile page. Then press the 3 horizontal line menu button in the top right corner:

TikTok menu button screenshot

This drops down the main TikTok menu drawer.

Step 2: Choose Settings & Privacy

Next, select the Settings & privacy option from menu:

TikTok Settings and Privacy screenshot

You should now be on the main Settings page.

Step 3: Go to Manage Account

Among the various settings options, choose Manage account:

Go to manage account screenshot

Almost there! This screen has controls related to your account.

Step 4: Request Your Data for Download

Finally, select the Download your data line on the account management tab. This opens up data export options:

TikTok Download Your Data screenshot

Tap Request data to initiate the export process.

And that‘s it! After you make the request, TikTok gets to work preparing your exportable data file.

Step 5: Sit Back and Wait for Processing

Be aware that TikTok says it can take up to 3 days for your data to be packaged up and made available for download.

I‘d block off time on your calendar exactly 72 hours after making the initial request to check back on status. At that point, you should have an in-app notification saying your TikTok data is ready for export.

Step 6: Download Your Data When Ready

Once TikTok finishes spit shining your data file, you‘ll receive an in-app notification along these lines:

TikTok Data Ready Notification screenshot

Follow Steps 1-4 again, which lead you back to the Download your data screen. Only now you should see an option to Download data. Hit that!

Download TikTok data file screenshot

This downloads your info as a zipped TXT or JSON file. I actually recommend TXT format here as it‘s easier to scan quickly.

Then just wait for the file to finish downloading!

Step 7: Dig Into Your Data!

After downloading finishes, locate the TikTok data file on your device and unzip it. From there you‘ll have a massive text file containing info on your TikTok account activity.

We‘re talking profile details, upload stats, videos views, comments, search history – the works!

I‘ll cover highlights of what‘s actually in this file next to demonstrate how much is collected…

A Deep Dive into Your Downloaded TikTok Data

Now for my personal favorite section – dissecting what type of user data TikTok actually retains based on what‘s included in my own downloaded data file!

Get ready for some eye-opening specifics here.

Profile Information

Right away in scanning through the raw TXT data, you‘ll find details like:

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Name
  • Bio
  • Profile photo
  • Date of birth
  • Creation date

All pretty standard stuff tied directly to your account. Here‘s a short snippet:

"create_time": "2022-05-13 14:32:11", 
"unique_id": "1234567891234567",
"nickname": "DataAnalystPro",  
"signature": "Telling stories with data. Weekly analysis on TikTok trends.",
"birthday": "1990-07-23",
"is_verified": false,

Detailed Video Statistics

Further down in the file, you‘ll uncover granular stats on all the videos you‘ve shared – likes, plays, comments, shares, hashtags used, captions entered, etc.

Check out this small example:

"stats": {    
    "video_like_count": 479,
    "video_comment_count": 26    
    "video_play_count": 15483,   
    "video_share_count": 12,     
    "hashtags": ["data", "TikTok", "statistics"], 
    "video_text": "Digging into my downloaded TikTok data..." 

Pretty crazy how much usage data they attach to each individual video!

I also spotted view duration percentages and traffic source breakdowns in my file. So TikTok can definitely detect if video plays are coming organically, from search on their platform, or links shared off-TikTok.

Device Information

Scrolling deeper, I stumbled upon a long list of device IDs that have logged into my TikTok account.

Including exact models, OS versions and timestamps of logins, it looked something like this:

Device IDs logged into your account:

DeviceOSLast Login
iPhone XSiOS 15.22023-01-05 12:32:01
iPad MiniiOS 15.12023-01-03 17:22:33
Huawei TabletAndroid 122022-12-22 08:12:53

Seeing this was a bit startling! While the iPhone and iPad checks out…I don‘t recall ever logging into TikTok on an Android tablet. Might be worth changing my account password just in case.

Advertising Metadata

Finally, as someone working in the ad industry – the section around advertising data was most intriguing.

TikTok grabs your Advertising ID plus tracks activity across a wide range of inferred interests for targeting ads:

"advertiser_notice": {
  "idfa": "1BE23C4D-7CAF-4A9A-A9F0-12345689B0AF", 
  "idfv": "B391B03C-44BB-9981-ABCD-D8292839C11E",
  "interests": ["Finance", "Luxury cars", "World travel"]   

It also retains info on ads you‘ve actually engaged with and what actions were taken:

"interactions": {
  "displayed": 65,
  "clicked": 2,  
  "installed": 1

Now I better understand why I see so many BMW and business class flight ads recently! TikTok seems to have me pegged as financially well off.

While that covers just a small snippet of data points, hopefully it gives you a better sense of how extensive your TikTok profile truly is from an information standpoint.

TikTok vs Other Platforms: A Data Collection Comparison

To put TikTok‘s data retention practices into context, I wanted to contrast them briefly with other major social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Below is a high-level comparison across the types of user data I could access on each platform from their respective data download tools:

| Data Category | TikTok | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube |
| —————– | —————– |–|–|–|–|
| Profile info | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ |
| Post metadata | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ |
| Actions taken | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ |
| Search history | ✅ | ❌ | ❌ | ❌ |
| Devices logged in | ✅ | ❌ | ✅ | ✅ |
| Ads shown | ✅ | ❌ | ✅ | ❌ |
| Ad interests | ✅ | ✅ | ✅ | ❌ |

The key takeaway…TikTok collects quite robust user data – on par with Facebook given their shared ad business models. More so than other platforms focused exclusively on the user experience like Instagram or YouTube.

For DIY tech enthusiasts, TikTok also provides official documentation walking through [what specific data fields are included](). This gets technical but helps paint the full picture.

And while TikTok grabs extensive user information today, regulatory changes could restrict data usage in Western countries going forward due to ongoing privacy concerns. But that‘s a topic for another day!

Closing Recommendations

I hope walking through this hands-on tutorial to access your personal TikTok data gave you some added insight into how the platform tracks your usage behind the scenes.

As you saw from my analysis, there is an incredible depth of data being gathered across multiple facets of your account – down to individual video views!

Here are my parting thoughts for you as a reader:

  • Audit your data monthly – Don‘t let your downloads expire! Set a monthly calendar reminder to put in fresh TikTok data requests and scan for anything suspicious.

  • Update privacy settings – You can tweak some data collection preferences in TikTok‘s settings. Turn off personalized ads or toggle share usage data off.

  • Share with friends – Help your own TikTok-obsessed friends understand their personal data situation with this guide!

And if you want even more hot takes on all things social media, be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter for weekly insights directly to your inbox.

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