TikTok Law Enforcement Guidelines
Last updated: April 19, 2021
These guidelines (“Guidelines”) are a reference for law enforcement officials seeking the data of users of the TikTok platform (the “Platform”) from any of the TikTok entities listed in Section 1 below (together “TikTok”). For additional information, see our Law Enforcement FAQS.
TikTok is committed to cooperating with law enforcement while respecting the privacy and other rights of its users. To achieve this, TikTok has internal policies and procedures governing how TikTok handles and responds to law enforcement requests. These require that TikTok disclose user data only where a request is based on a valid legal process or in emergency circumstances.
1. Basic Requirements
First, requests must be addressed to the correct TikTok entity. This is based on the location of the relevant user as follows:
Please note that requests addressed to the incorrect TikTok entity may not be processed until this error has been rectified, which may cause unnecessary delay.
Second, requests must be submitted by email to: email@example.com with any attachments (e.g. official warrant, court order or other documentation supporting the request) in PDF format.
Any confirmation of receipt of correspondence is for convenience only and, in doing so, TikTok does not waive any right of objection (including for lack of jurisdiction, invalid legal process or lack of proper service). All requests to TikTok and any supporting documents (including orders, warrants, and/or subpoenas or equivalent) must be provided in English or with a translation. TikTok will not respond to requests for user data sent by non-law enforcement officials or when they are sent through informal channels.
2. Types of User Data
TikTok may hold the following user data which can be the subject of a valid law enforcement request:
Each request must clearly specify the type of data requested and the legal basis for requesting it. If the request does not meet the applicable legal requirements for the requested data (as listed in Section 3 below), the data will not be disclosed. This is in particular the case for requests relating to content data (which generally require a domestic court / judicial order, warrant or equivalent).
3. Requirements When Making a Request
Each request must be dated and include the following information:
- Details of requesting law enforcement authority (or Court):
- Requesting Authority (or Court): The name and location of the law enforcement authority. In the case of a Court order, the request should indicate the location and name of the relevant Court and judge / magistrate.
- Requesting officer: The requesting officer’s name, badge / identification number, email address (this must be from an official email domain) and phone number (including any direct dial extension).
- Details of relevant user account:
- TikTok username: When requesting data regarding a specific user of the Platform, you must provide a specific TikTok username or an approved account identifier associated with the relevant account. We also request that a screenshot of the relevant account be provided (to help us to identify the correct account more quickly). The following are TikTok approved identifiers:
- TikTok User ID
- TikTok username (account URL or screenshot accepted)
- Phone number
- Email address
- Video ID (video URL or screenshot accepted)
- Data requested: The request should clearly specify the scope of the data requested. Overly broad requests will be refused.
- Date range: The request must specify a date (and, if possible, a time), or a date range as relevant to the request (for historic data only).
- Legal basis for the request:
- Relevant legal process: The request should clearly specify the legal process (i.e. citing the relevant article or section of an Act / Statute / Code), which authorizes law enforcement to request and collect information for the purposes of prevention, detection or investigation of criminal offences.
- Context and Offence(s) under investigation: The request should separately indicate the type of offence(s) under investigation (citing the relevant Act / Statute / Code), the circumstances of the offence and in what way it is connected to the Platform.
- User notification: Please indicate whether user notification is permitted (see Section 4 below).
4. User Notifications
It is our policy to notify TikTok users before disclosing their data to law enforcement, unless providing such notice: (a) is prohibited under applicable law; (b) would jeopardize an investigation; and/or (c) would put individuals at risk of harm. It is the responsibility of the requesting law enforcement authority to clearly indicate in their request whether any of these criteria are met. TikTok will honour such requests where appropriate supporting information is provided (for example, if a request makes reference to a non-disclosure obligation under applicable law).
5. Preservation Requests
TikTok will honour formal requests to preserve user data for 90 days. Please send all preservation requests via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line clearly labelled: “Preservation Request”.
Preservation requests must be sent on law enforcement letterhead, signed, and must clearly identify the specific user data to be preserved (by reference to username, the data type and date ranges as per Section 3 above). TikTok will preserve information for an additional 90-day period upon receipt of a formal request to extend the preservation. We may not honour multiple extension requests beyond one additional 90-day period. If TikTok does not receive formal legal process for the preserved information before the end of the preservation period, the preserved information may be deleted when the preservation period expires.
Overly broad or unspecific preservation requests will not be actioned. In addition, the preservation request must include a statement about the steps being taken to obtain a court order or other legal process for the user data sought. To seek disclosure of preserved data, the requirements set out in Sections 1 and 3 of these Guidelines will apply.
6. Emergency Requests
TikTok has processes in place to handle emergency requests. Such requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis: if as part of an emergency request we receive information that is sufficient in our assessment to establish a good faith belief that there is an emergency involving imminent harm or the risk of death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide user data necessary to prevent that harm, as permitted by applicable law.
To request this data, you may submit your request through the Emergency Disclosure Request Form.
You may also submit an emergency request by email to email@example.com: we request that the subject line is clearly labelled “Emergency Disclosure Request”, and it should include all of the following information:
- Identify the person who is in danger of death or serious physical injury, or who is at risk of imminent harm;
- The relevant account information for the user(s) whose data is necessary to prevent an emergency (including a screenshot of the account, if available and, if not, an explanation is needed explaining why this is not attached);
- The nature of the emergency;
- The specific data requested;
- Why that data is reasonably necessary to prevent the emergency;
- All other relevant information regarding the circumstances of the emergency; and
- The email address and phone number (including direct dial extension) of the requesting officer.
All emergency requests must be made by a sworn law enforcement official, and come from an official law enforcement email domain (if sent via email). Non-law enforcement personnel aware of an emergency situation should immediately and directly contact local law enforcement officials.
TikTok may request that a law enforcement authority submit a request for legal assistance to designated government authorities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT”) framework, or by letters rogatory. This may arise in circumstances where the requesting law enforcement authority is located in a different country to the TikTok entity that provides the service to the relevant user whose data is requested (refer to Section 1 above). See our Law Enforcement FAQs for more information in relation to MLAT.
In submitting a request, law enforcement officials are required to ensure that any information provided is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge and good faith belief, and that the disclosure (or other action) requested is necessary and proportionate for the purposes of the prevention, detection or investigation of offences, or to prevent an emergency. Once received by law enforcement, the law enforcement authority is required to handle such data in accordance with applicable laws, including relevant data protection laws.
TikTok reserves the right to seek reimbursement for the costs associated with responding to law enforcement requests.
TikTok may update or replace these Guidelines from time to time at its sole discretion and without notice to any party.
TikTok Law Enforcement Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQS”)
These FAQS should be read together with TikTok’s Law Enforcement Guidelines
Q: What is TikTok’s approach to handling data requests from law enforcement authorities?
TikTok is committed to cooperating with law enforcement while respecting the privacy and other rights of our users. To achieve this, we have internal policies and procedures governing how we handle and respond to law enforcement requests. These require that we disclose user data only where a request is based on a valid legal process or in emergency circumstances.
All requests received undergo a case-by-case assessment by TikTok’s dedicated law enforcement response team before any user data is disclosed. This team is trained to evaluate requests from law enforcement authorities and frequently engages in outreach to communicate TikTok’s requirements for disclosing user data to law enforcement authorities.
Q: What are TikTok’s requirements for disclosing user data to law enforcement authorities?
TikTok’s requirements for disclosing user data to law enforcement authorities are clearly set out in our Law Enforcement Guidelines (in particular see Sections 1 and 3). These requirements reflect our internal policies and procedures for handling requests from law enforcement authorities, and are based on applicable legal requirements. Because the applicable laws vary from one country to another, the rules on when data can legally be disclosed will also vary to some extent and our internal policies and procedures reflect this.
Q: How do I find the TikTok username?
Q: Does TikTok ever reject data requests from law enforcement authorities?
Yes, TikTok rejects data requests from law enforcement authorities where they do not meet the requirements that are clearly set out in our Law Enforcement Guidelines. The most common examples are as follows:
- Requests that are not addressed to the correct TikTok entity;
- Requests that do not specify the legal process which authorizes law enforcement to request and collect information;
- Requests that do not indicate the type of offence(s) under investigation, the circumstances of the offence(s) and in what way it/they are connected to TikTok; and
- Overly broad requests for “all user data” or where there are no date ranges indicated.
Q: How else does TikTok ensure that requests from law enforcement authorities are valid?
Aside from rejecting requests from law enforcement authorities that are not made in accordance with the relevant legal processes and requirements, TikTok will in accordance with applicable law:
- seek to narrow the scope of data requests in terms of the volume of data requested, the number of users they relate to and/or the time period to which they relate;
- ask for further information in support of the request (in particular, for details of the relevant legal process and/or the type of offence(s) under investigation); or
- communicate to the requesting law enforcement authorities that a request via the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT”) process is necessary to obtain disclosure of the requested data.
Q: Does TikTok ever disclose user data outside of formal legal requests?
TikTok may disclose user data without receiving a formal legal request (based on valid legal process) in the following cases:
- Emergency circumstances: As explained in Section 5 of our Law Enforcement Guidelines, where satisfied there is an emergency involving imminent harm or risk of death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide user data necessary to prevent that harm, as permitted by applicable law.
- Reporting obligations: In certain circumstances, TikTok is subject to legal obligations to report certain user data either to law enforcement authorities or to designated bodies such as the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”).
Q: What type of scenarios would constitute an emergency?
All emergency disclosure requests undergo a case-by-case assessment and each request will be evaluated by our law enforcement response team based on its particular circumstances. However, the following are some examples that may constitute an emergency:
- Cases of child safety and exploitation;
- Missing persons;
- Suicide and self-injury scenarios;
- Imminent threats of violence; or
- Natural or man-made disaster situations (such as fires, floods, earthquakes, etc).
Q: Does TikTok accept data requests from law enforcement authorities in all countries?
While law enforcement authorities in any country can submit a request to TikTok, the requirements for data disclosure will vary depending on the location of the user, the location of the requesting law enforcement authority and, in certain cases, the type of data requested. In certain circumstances, TikTok will communicate to a law enforcement authority that a request via the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process (known as “MLAT”) is necessary to obtain disclosure of the requested data. TikTok publishes Transparency Reports with information on the number of requests received from each country.
Q: What is a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT”)?
An MLAT is a treaty between two or more countries that defines how each will assist in legal matters, such as in criminal investigations. Through an MLAT, the government of one country can seek assistance from the government of another country in obtaining information from companies located in the other country.
Q: In what circumstances may it be necessary for law enforcement authorities to rely on the MLAT process?
It may be necessary in circumstances where the requesting law enforcement authority is located in a different country to the TikTok entity that provides the service to the relevant user (see Section 1 of our Law Enforcement Guidelines). If law enforcement are unclear as to whether they should rely on MLAT, they can contact TikTok. On receipt of such a request, TikTok will endeavour to communicate to the law enforcement authority whether MLAT is appropriate and to direct them to the designated “central authority” for MLAT purposes in the appropriate country.
For example, for users located outside the US, UK, EEA and Switzerland, the TikTok service is provided by TikTok’s Singapore entity. In this example, we would communicate to the requesting law enforcement authority (if they are located outside Singapore) that they must submit a request to Singapore’s “central authority” for MLAT purposes, if they wish to proceed with their request for disclosure of user data by TikTok’s Singapore entity.
Q: Where should non-law enforcement requests be sent?
Non-law enforcement requests should be directed as follows:
- Report Content: Details of how to report various types of content that may be in breach of TikTok’s Community Guidelines are available here.
- Report IP infringement: Reports of alleged copyright or trademark infringement should be made in accordance with TikTok’s Intellectual Property Policy and can be filed as a Copyright Infringement Report or as a Trademark Infringement Report.
- Civil law matters: A copy of any civil law matters (including those related to litigation or other proceedings) should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line clearly labelled as “Civil Law Proceedings” and with the relevant parties named. However, any receipt of correspondence by email is for convenience only and, in doing so, TikTok does not waive any rights of objection including for lack of jurisdiction, invalid legal process or lack of proper service under applicable laws.
Q: How quickly does TikTok process requests?
TikTok’s dedicated law enforcement response team endeavours to respond to all requests in a timely manner but response times can vary in particular due to the caseload volume at a given time and the complexity of a request. If a particular request is time-sensitive, we would ask the requesting law enforcement officer to note this in the request (explaining the reasons). Longer response times can be expected where the request does not meet the requirements set out in our Law Enforcement Guidelines and these Law Enforcement FAQS.
Q: What do I do if I receive a Cybertip report made by TikTok to NCMEC?
If law enforcement has received a Cybertip report made by TikTok to NCMEC, and is now requesting further user data in connection with an investigation, the request must meet the requirements set out in our Law Enforcement Guidelines and these Law Enforcement FAQS. To help us more efficiently process your request, please specify in your request the report number assigned to the Cybertip report by NCMEC.