Unlike other social applications, tik tok did not become global success By connecting people with their friends and family. Its stated mission is to “inspire creativity and build joy,” which is a far cry from Facebook’s goal of “bringing the worlds together.” The central feature of the application is Your algorithm page, mainly recommends videos based on what users like, not whether they were uploaded by someone they know. But recently, that seems to be starting to change.
While TikTok was until now an app where you can pretty much expect to never encounter annoying uncles, ex-friends or co-workers, the platform is now making a greater effort to connect users with people they already have relationships with outside the platform. Eight TikTok users told WIRED that over the past few months, the app has started encouraging them to follow people from real life. It has also become a file common complaint Among TikTok believers more broadly, raising privacy concerns about the tactics the app uses to identify who they know in the first place.
“The safety and privacy of our community is paramount and that’s why we offer a range of privacy settings and subscription features that enable people to customize their app experience to suit their convenience and enjoyment,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
Alex, a 27-year-old who lives in Queens, says that one night earlier this year, she checked her TikTok notifications and was surprised when she realized her dad had followed her profile. She quickly blocked him, but the incident is worrying because she often posts about being bisexual, something her father didn’t know about at the time.
“While I’ve been thinking about talking to him lately, I feel like this choice has robbed me,” Alex says. Her profile includes her name, but she still thinks the risk of her father finding out is low given how TikTok works. “I was surprised that he found me because of our different beliefs and interests. I would never have guessed that the algorithm would show him my videos, so I never worried about him finding my profile.”
While it is possible that her father actively sought her account, it is possible that he did not have to. Like many social media platforms, TikTok allows users to find people they know by syncing their phone contacts or Facebook friends. If you provide a phone number when signing up and list your age as over 16, by default TikTok will suggest “suggest your account to phone contacts”, depending on the app’s privacy settings. If someone has your number – and you provide it to TikTok – they can find your profile unless you opt out.
TikTok needs permission to access your contact list, but two users said they didn’t realize they had bought into the feature until a WIRED reporter asked them to verify. “I make a point that I never do that,” says Michael Waters, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, who suspects he accidentally clicked on a pop-up. Number of Persons Also on Twitter, they reported that their contacts had been inadvertently synced with TikTok.
There are other ways TikTok finds out who you know in real life. By default, the app suggests your profile to “people who are in a relationship with you.” This includes users who follow or follow the same accounts, like the way Facebook recommends people to each other who have mutual friends.