TikTok, the Chinese short video sharing app, has amassed popularity like wildfire, faster than any other social media platform till date. Unfortunately, political microaggressions between China and India led to a swift ban of the service in India, depriving the largest user base of TikTok in the world.
This was only the start of a developing trend as US and Japan are also in the midst of plans to ban TikTok in their respective countries.
But the good news is that these bans are relatively easy to break with the right tools. With a right VPN for the job, you can easily unblock TikTok and gain instant access to continue participating in the growing TikTok community.
How to unblock TikTok with a VPN
The steps below use Surfshark as an example to show the typical setup process for unblocking TikTok
Step 1: Get a subscription of a powerful VPN from our list below.
Step 2: Download and install it on your device (make sure to use a device that hasn’t already been blocked).
Step 3: Launch the VPN and enter your login details.
Step 4: Connect to a server location where TikTok isn’t banned such as Australia.
Step 5: Once connected, launch the TikTok app and enjoy creating and consuming the best user-generated content.
Best TikTok VPNs – Detailed Analysis
The following list consists of VPNs possessing strong unblocking ability necessary to bypass governmental restrictions and bans on apps like TikTok:
1. PureVPN – Best All-around TikTok VPN
PureVPN obtains a strong unblocking strength from its expansive network that encompasses 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries. With such a wide selection of server locations, you can bypass restrictions on TikTok very easily with PureVPN.
In fact, PureVPN works very well even against websites with stringent geo-restrictions such as Netflix, so there’s no doubt that it will effortlessly work with TikTok. This is because restrictions against TikTok are imposed by governments; the app itself isn’t restricting access for anyone.
Another reason why PureVPN is valuable for TikTok users is that it boosts your online privacy. TikTok is not a very private-respecting app and gathers information about users. Unfortunately, no VPN can protect against information present at the device level.
Nonetheless, PureVPN generally affords better privacy to users due to its no-logging policy and features such as kill switch. If you’re a user that wants better privacy in general and wants to break TikTok bans, PureVPN is one of the most reliable choices available.
You can get PureVPN for $3.33/mo and enjoy its 31-day money-back guarantee.
2. Surfshark – Efficient TikTok Unblocker
Surfshark is a highly privacy-focused VPN that is also remarkably efficient for unblocking apps that have been banned like TikTok has. Since this is only a regional ban, Surfshark can access TikTok when users select one of its many non-Indian servers from a list of 1,700+ servers in 64+ countries.
Users that want better privacy can also take advantage of Surfshark’s wide range of features including CleanWeb, kill switch, MultiHop, and more. Again, these might not help curb the data-harvesting nature of TikTok, but Surfshark can surely help you stay safer on the web in general with these features.
Surfshark’s unblocking capabilities are not limited to social media apps like TikTok either. In fact, you can easily deploy it for accessing various Netflix regions as well as other streaming websites.
Overall, Surfshark is a complete package that will not only allow you to pass through governmental bans on TikTok, but also boost your privacy on the precarious web. It costs $2.49/mo and supports unlimited simultaneous connections as well.
3. NordVPN – Good for TikTok Privacy
NordVPN is a renowned VPN service known for its huge network of 5,000+ servers in 58+ countries. It is one of those VPNs that offer a solid balance of privacy and unblocking power. Users will find it super-easy to bypass restrictions on TikTok using NordVPN’s huge variety of servers.
What’s more, NordVPN also uses technologies like obfuscation to help people in countries that regulate and control VPN traffic, and allow them to disguise their VPN as normal internet traffic. This can allow users to not only unblock TikTok, but do so in a way that there’s no chance of governments suspecting that you’re using a VPN as a trick to fool the blocking mechanism placed on TikTok.
NordVPN also offers multiple features that can enhance a user’s privacy on the web in general. These include DoubleVPN, Onion over VPN, CyberSec, and kill switch. The VPN is also known for its Netflix unblocking prowess which can come in handy if you’re a fan of streaming services.
You can obtain NordVPN for $3.71/mo . A single NordVPN subscription comes with support for 6 simultaneous connections, a decent added bonus.
4. CyberGhost – Reliable for Undoing TikTok Restrictions
CyberGhost is a Romanian VPN service that is characterized by a huge network of 5,500+ servers in 85+ countries. TikTok users will have no trouble whatsoever using CyberGhost to bypass the ban on this app in India or anywhere else in the world.
Although CyberGhost doesn’t offer a large number of extra features, it takes care of the basics really well. Other than the ability to unblock TikTok, users can also deploy CyberGhost to access US Netflix without experiencing undue nuisances.
However, in my experience, CyberGhost hasn’t delivered the same level of speeds that other providers mentioned above did. Speed isn’t the priority for a good TikTok experience though, and nor should it be that big of a problem if your base internet speed is fast enough in the first place.
CyberGhost is a decent VPN to have for tackling problems such as the recent TikTok ban. You can purchase it for $2.25/mo . The plan also offers a 45-day money-back guarantee as well as 7 simultaneous connections.
How to Choose a VPN for TikTok
A TikTok VPN must possess two essential characteristics: a good logging policy and decent server infrastructure.
TikTok users are already sacrificing their privacy to a great extent, but it would be ill-advised to compromise it further by using a VPN with a poor logging policy. Although VPNs can’t help prevent TikTok from collecting details about you through your account, a VPN with a strict no-logging policy will still preserve your privacy during browsing and other activities.
Thus, users should invest in a VPN that doesn’t collect any sensitive information so that your activities on TikTok can at least be hidden from other third-parties.
Currently, only India has taken the step to ban TikTok which makes the app inaccessible for any user located within India. But there are already worrying signs that other countries might follow India’s lead and ban TikTok. If that happens, TikTok users will only be able to access the app by connecting to VPN servers in locations where it is still working.
This is why it is important to have a VPN with a large enough server base in European regions. Even in the unlikely scenario that TikTok bans become common across the world, there will still be places in Europe where the app will certainly work. Therefore, a VPN with enough European servers (as those mentioned above) will be the only ones effective for accessing TikTok.
Why Are Countries Banning TikTok?
The reasons for banning TikTok are still not perfectly clear, but one theme is common from India to US i.e. “national security concerns”. Governments are worried that China is using TikTok as a surveillance app to spy on other nations because it collects more details about users than suits a simple video-sharing app (see below for more details).
But this appears to be a poorly cooked up pretext for digital censorship grounded on misplaced fears of the increasing influence of China all over the world.
In the US, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) recently released an executive order which listed concerns like the spread of political disinformation and data collection; something which is common to pretty much every other app out there including those owned by US’ own Facebook, Google, Microsoft and more.
In fact, New York Times reported a CIA assessment of TikTok which found no evidence that the app was involved in any sort of espionage or had direct links with the Chinese government. Based on these facts, there seems to be no reason why TikTok is being singled out as an app posing national security risks when there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it when compared to most other social apps.
Therefore, abuse of presidential powers is the most likely cause behind US and India banning TikTok; an act of mere political maneuvering, but quite a dangerous one at that.
Whatever the reasons, what cannot be denied is the unfairness of the decision to ban the app in countries with the highest number of users. Both US and India are two countries where TikTok is most popular in the world:
Thus, this ban only represents an affront to freedom of expression in a world where digital platforms have become the primary nodes of information sharing.
Privacy Problems in TikTok
TikTok is an excellent platform that democratized content creation and promoted discovery of aspiring creators that are not as well-known as their famous counterparts. For this, TikTok deserves a lot of commendation.
At the same time, it is important for TikTok users to fully understand the extent to which they are sacrificing their privacy by using this app.
Information collection through other social media:
Users that sign up to TikTok through their other social media accounts should keep in mind that TikTok will collect information from your connected social profiles.
I strongly recommend signing up to TikTok with a new account created especially for TikTok use. This way, you can at least opt out of data collection from your social accounts.
Information collection through device and SIM
TikTok takes the liberty to collect details from a user’s device and even their SIM card without consent.
There is absolutely no logical reason for an app like TikTok to collect users’ device identifiers, model of device, mobile carrier, time zone setting, screen resolution, file names, and keystroke patterns. This is simply ridiculous! The only scenario where any company would be collecting such detailed information from a user is if they were feeding algorithms to train their own artificial intelligence systems.
TikTok even obtains location information from a user’s SIM card! This means that you can’t even use proxy or VPNs to pretend to be located in a different country and hide your real location. Turning off location services on your phone and denying permission to TikTok will have no effect either since they can still determine your location through your SIM.
Collection of in-app messages
There’s a messaging functionality in TikTok through which users can send messages to other TikTok users. TikTok openly declared that they collect and analyze all information contained within these messages.
Unlike apps such as WhatsApp, TikTok doesn’t use any encryption at all, so the company can easily see all the contents of your messages. In fact, they’re not only reading your messages but analyzing it to learn even more details about you.
Needless to say, this is a huge red flag.
How TikTok uses all this information
A lot of the information that TikTok is gathering about you make no sense. But if you consider the purposes they want to use your collected information for, things start to make a little more sense but not in a good way.
TikTok will gather whatever information it can about you and then find out the missing elements using the information it already knows about you. It doesn’t matter to the company if users want to keep their age, gender, and interests hidden. The company will infer it with or without your permission.
You can find out how one set of information can be used to predict another set of attributes of people through their social profiles in this article where I discussed this subject in some length, focusing on Facebook.
The algorithms that TikTok uses to suggest, display, and promote content are informed through these same personal details as well. In fact, the company behind TikTok, ByteDance, is an artificial intelligence company. It is highly likely that they are using your information to train machine learning and AI algorithms without bothering to seek user consent for it first.
What Social Media Says About the TikTok Ban
Social media is abuzz with discussions about the TikTok ban that India has recently imposed. The following blogger, for instance, pointed out how VPNs alone will not suffice to unblock TikTok:
TikTok has stopped working in India even on VPN
It looks like using a VPN will not allow you to access the TikTok
The ban seems to be device ID-based rather than just IP-based pic.twitter.com/K9MySBkcBA
— Utsav Techie (@utsavtechie) July 1, 2020
Another user pointed out the same:
it looks like TikTok is blocking by device ID. if you have logged on tiktok before from a phone in india, it might not work anymore.
— Surinderxx (@surinderxx) June 30, 2020
This suggests that the authorities are very serious about this ban and don’t want people to easily bypass it with a VPN. Nonetheless, users should still be able to unblock TikTok with a device that they have never used for TikTok before and make sure to always be connected to a VPN before logging into TikTok.
Is it illegal to use the banned Chinese apps?
No, it is not illegal to use Chinese apps banned by India or US. These bans only represent attempts to suppress access, but there are no legal grounds for outlawing their use through VPNs or other means.
Is there a fine on using the banned Chinese apps?
No, there is no fine for using TikTok or any other banned Chinese app anywhere in the world.
How can I download banned apps from a different country?
On desktops, it is easy to download banned apps with a VPN. However, on smartphones, you will have to sideload the apk of the desire app since most stores like Play Store won’t allow you to download an app that’s been banned in your country.
What should I do if my VPN doesn’t unblock TikTok?
It’s possible that your device ID has been banned. In this case, the only option is to use TikTok on a new device and protect it with a VPN at all times so it doesn’t get banned also.
The ban on TikTok is an attack on digital freedom of people in India. If US and other countries follow India’s footsteps, this will represent a serious abuse of governmental powers against freedom of expression.
It is the people who ultimately end up paying the price for military aggression and political tensions between countries. Thankfully, we still have VPN services to rely on when governments decide to curb our freedoms.
With that said, there are some serious issues with the way TikTok collects and users information of its users. It collects so many distinct pieces of information about users that uninstalling the app altogether is the only effective solution for preventing privacy violations.
But we need to remember TikTok is not the only app that disregards user privacy so it doesn’t deserve a discriminatory treatment that it’s been receiving.
At the same time, I reemphasize that VPNs will NOT help preserve your privacy against TikTok’s overreaching data harvesting practices. Nonetheless, with this ban on TikToK in India which might be followed by US, Japan, and other countries, the only way to continue accessing TikTok is through VPN services so users can mask their location and avoid being flagged by the government.
What are your thoughts about India and US’ stances against Chinese apps like TikTok? Leave a comment below!
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