Exporting data from TikTok is a nightmare --- #tech

Following from my shocking Customer service experience with FB this week, it seems that none of the big socials have really figured out how to scale up user data ownership. That’s not surprising: they are overgrown lumbering beasts with tiny per-user profit margins. Good customer service on data costs them double (helps users leave), so it’s not surprising they are bottom of the pile.

But I think when it irks me is when they try to talk a good game about it.
I preferred TikTok when it was first a Chinese import, not pretending to Western values.

Now they’re pushing “educational” content, and more recently slapping on their front page a big banner about positive privacy & user rights changes:

But how did the Westerners pushing “good values” fare. Well Chinese data scientist Sophie Zhang joined FB “make positive change”, but they gave her no support to actually do so.
It’s a bit like TikTok’s data export feature: they tell you you’ll own your data and then actually getting it works something like this:

The 12 Days of Miss-mas

Day 1. Request first export

I requested txt first so I could quickly human validate:

Day 3. Receive Inbox noti it’s arrived

Noti buried in app, must go via hooky home page:

Day 4. Unlock

Even if you avoid all the Social login trapdoors and sign in with password, they’ll still re-prompt you for it:

Day 5. VIew on iOS browser


Day 6. Try passing to Desktop browser

Passing the url (which contains a redirect url) to desktop browser, you get to a page like:

Clearly wants me to be logged in, but also curious it seems to think it’s JSON when I requested txt.

When I try to log in to another tab from TikTok.com, or do the password verification via Web Inbox, I was met with the spinning circles:

This was true across my custom Firefox, but also vanilla Brave (Chromium) & Safari.

Poor web experience isn’t surprising given how Chinese (read: mobile-first) TikTok is, but I can’t really excuse them for iOS (iPad) experience.

Days 7-12. Repeat for JSON export

Did anyone have a better experience?

Would love to know if anyone actually got data out in a useful form. This was largely a stress-test as I privitise my short-lived @CeruleanSounds presence, but we ultimately decided just to double-down on @Spitfire_Bars because frankly MC Beastly is the only part of me unprincipled enough to use a tech service (same for vanilla Facebook, and hopefully one day the gram) which shows its user this little respect.

But anyway I do hope to grow @SpitFire_Bars into tensK followers there with short-vids, so it would be nice to know we can readily extract the content at a couple days notice.

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