TikTok India head Nikhil Gandhi, in a blog post on Wednesday, reiterated that the company hadn’t shared the data of Indian users with any foreign government, nor would it do so if asked in the future. “Throughout the duration of our operations, we have demonstrated an unequivocal commitment to complying with the local laws, including data privacy and security requirements,” Gandhi wrote.
TikTok, owned by Beijing-headquartered multinational technology company ByteDance, was one among the 59 Chinese apps banned by the government on June 29 due to data privacy concerns. In its press release issued at the time, the government said the applications were engaged in activities “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.” The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has since sought clarification from the banned apps about their beneficial owners, parent companies, countries of incorporation and location of data servers, among other things.
On Wednesday (July 29) it was reported that the government had asked the banned applications about their data sharing around specific events such as the Pulwama terror attacks in February last year, their links to Beijing, and content moderation policies for sensitive issues such as national security. The companies owning the apps were also asked to prove their independent credentials as a company with no links to the Chinese state.
“TikTok has submitted its response to the government and is working with it to provide clarifications to allay any concerns. ” Gandhi added in his blog post. “As stated in our latest Transparency Report released earlier this July, we take pride in being extremely proactive in responding to government content escalation, by virtue of content moderation decisions taken locally by our Grievance Officer and legal teams.”
In a bid to assuage the concerns of the government, TikTok has also said that it would be willing to shift its data servers to India, also adding that the company had no plans to pursue legal action against the ban but would work with the government to address its concerns. The short video sharing application had its largest market in India, with 120 Mn monthly active users and 660 Mn all-time downloads in the country since its launch two years ago, accounting for a bit less than 30% of its global downloads of more than 2 Bn.
TikTok had big plans for its India creator community as well. Following the ban, TikTok global CEO Kevin Mayer wrote to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, seeking a meeting with him to explain the company’s data-sharing practices, while also talking about the company’s plans to set up an engineering centre in India and developing India-focused products for the platform.
India is now a major destination for multinational technology companies, vying for a piece of a market with more than 500 Mn smartphone users and growing internet penetration in the hinterland of the country. Since the ban on TikTok, both ‘Made in India’ and foreign applications such as Roposo, Zili, Dubsmash, Trell Mitron and Chingari, among others, billed as alternatives to TikTok, have seen a spurt in downloads.