After it was booted from India, short video app TikTok is prepping up to exit Hong Kong due to the Chinese government’s new security law which has raised concerns about data privacy.
China-based ByteDance had launched TikTok in 2017 for the non-Chinese audience. The same company had launched Douyin, in 2016, for the Chinese audience.
The main intention behind the move was to keep out of Chinese government’s security law, however, Hong Kong, which enjoys a special status was kept out of the ambit. This was one of the main reasons why ByteDance set up TikTok in Hong Kong and not mainland China. But with Chinese government decided to expand the security law to Hong Kong as well, strict censorship laws will now be applicable in the city too.
Citing privacy concerns TikTok has decided to exit the market, whereas several other companies, including Facebook, have decided to suspended processing government requests for user data. The development was first reported by Reuters.
Reuters also added that Hong Kong is a small, loss-making market for TikTok and last year it has attracted 150K users. Therefore, exiting Hong Kong may not be a big problem for the hypershots entertainment platform individually. But in totality, the platform seems to be in a bit of trouble given its Chinese origin.
Just Like India, US On A Run To Ban Chinese Apps
Following India, the US is also looking to ban Chinese apps like TikTok, secretary of state Mike Pompeo confirmed on Monday (July 6). Pompeo highlighted that lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data as the Chinese government mandates the domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” Besides this, the law also requires Chinese entities to store their data physically in China.
Last year, a California-based university student, Misty Hong, filed a lawsuit again TikTok claiming that the collected data can be used to identify, profile and trace users in the US.
However, TikTok has repeatedly emphasised that it stores its data in Singapore and does not share any information with the Chinese government. In its latest statement issued after India banned 59 Chinese apps, TikTok India’s head Nikhil Gandhi said TikTok placed the highest priority on users’ privacy and has been “complying with data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and hasn’t shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government.”
These allegations against TikTok aren’t something that has sprung up out of the blue. In India, courts and lawmakers have been skeptical about the app over several reasons. The demand to ban TikTok has been doing the rounds since 2019 starting off with Madras High Court’s move to ban it briefly In Tamil Nadu over pornography and cyberbullying.
On the order of the Prime Minister’s office, IT Ministry had also issued a notice to TikTok, along with a list of 21 questions. The ministry had also threatened to ban the app if the company did not send an appropriate response.
Besides this, Pinaki Mishra and Jayadev Galla, both Member of Parliament, had laid out concerns during the Parliament session. “India has a neighbour who is hell-bent on collecting data and information from India. This is not going to benefit India but (it’s) for their own benefit, their future,” Mishra said, citing the need for the government to implement a data protection law immediately. Even Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has raised a similar issue, saying that TikTok is a way for the Chinese government to spy on India.
Notably, India was the largest market for TikTok with over 200 Mn monthly active users. Followed by 65-80 Mn active monthly users in the US. The company has more than 2 Bn downloads across the globe.
Chinese state-backed media outlet, The Global Times has said that the loss of Chinese internet company ByteDance could be as high as $6 Bn after the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps.