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I downloaded TikTok once - about 2 years ago. I never created an account, and I deleted it about a week later.

About a month ago my youtube feed started getting TikTok reccomendations. I'm curious as to how this could have happened suddenly?

  1. Does TikTok track a person even if I don't have an account?
  2. If so, how do I prevent tracking from TikTok/ByteDance?
  3. Can TikTok place a cookie on your browser even if you're not on their site?

Thanks all,

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  • Was this done on an Android phone?
    – belkarx
    Jan 1 at 20:22
  • Yes, I'm on Android. I do use Chrome as my main browser but am considering FF. I'm getting paranoid with Google/FB.
    – DATAfiend
    Jan 2 at 0:54

1 Answer 1

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Why you are getting the recommendations

  1. TikTok is popular. You may have watched other videos or made other actions that profiled you as someone potentially interested in TikTok as an app, therefore giving you the recommendations. This is the most likely explanation, given that you installed it 2 years ago.

  2. You probably installed the app through Google or Apple's app store. Seeing as information gets bought and sold around for advertising, it's possible that your google account (if you have an Android and use your Google account for both setup and youtube, the feasibility of this option increases) or device became associated with tiktok, prompting the recommendations.

As for your subquestions:

  • Yes, TikTok tracks you even without an account. They can do this through cookies or "anonymously" tracking your interaction with their app
  • Don't use the app, use a browser that clears cookies and blocks fingerprinting
  • Cross-site cookies are disabled by default on sane browsers (though you may need to do this manually on Chrome or Edge). In theory they can place a more persistent cookie on your device, but that doesn't really benefit them. You have to have visited their site (or a site owned by them) for a cookie to be placed on your device, and if cross-site cookies are blocked, the cookie can only be accessed by the site that placed it.
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    I just thought of this whist pondering my question. Both of my daughter's use tiktok - a lot. I've told them of the problems with it and they are trying to be caredul with PII and other personal stuff. Could it be that since they are on my home wifi, they tiktok could correlate that ip traffic and generate a profile of me? Just a thought.
    – DATAfiend
    Jan 2 at 18:48
  • It is in fact possible that your IP could have been associated with TikTok, though if Google "knows" you already watch it, they don't really have a reason to advertise it to you. Some other traffic your daughters generate could have been incorporated into an IP-based profile though. If you want to test your theory, try using a VPN and see if the ads remain. If they do, it could be Google-account tied data or something fingerprinting based. Also on a note unrelated to security, I'd recommend managing your daughters' access to TikTok because it gets addicting fast.
    – belkarx
    Jan 2 at 20:10

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