Chinese Government never asked to share user data from India says TikTok chief

By Sudhanshu Singh | Published on 04 Jul 2020
Chinese Government never asked to share user data from India says TikTok chief
HIGHLIGHTS

Indian governments has put a ban on 59 Chinese apps amid the deadly combat between soldiers at the borders.

TikTok, in its recent letter to the Indian government, denies its alliance or association with the Chinese government.

Company chief says the Chinese government has never asked for Indian data and it will never share it if asked.

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The recently banned short video app and social network TikTok reportedly found to be distancing itself from China in their latest letter to the Indian Government. The ban on 59 applications was ordered in response to the ongoing military tensions between the two countries at the borders. As seen by Reuters, in its recent letter dated June 28 to the Indian Government, TikTok Chief Executive, Kevin Mayer, said the Chinese Government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. 

TikTok is highly prevalent in India, as its the top market for TikTok downloads in 2019 (excluding Chinese Android downloads), with 323 million installs, accounting for 44% of the total figure. The ban, as expected, raised alarms for the company given the popularity and investments in the Indian market. 

"I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users," Mayer wrote, adding that data for Indian users is stored in servers in Singapore. "If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply."

Mayer indicated that the company has made a $1bn investment in the region, highlighted more than 3,500 direct and indirect employees and its focus on regional content that is available in 14 languages.

"The privacy of our users, and the security and sovereignty of India, are of utmost importance to us," Mayer wrote. "We have already announced our plans to build a data centre in India."

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the letter was sent ahead of the likely meeting between the company officials and the Government authority. A government source also told Reuters that the ban is unlikely to be withdrawn soon. That's because the issue revolves around national security, and that's even more difficult to challenge judicially. 

Why TikTok is the talk?

If you're wondering why TikTok is the only app making headlines from the 59 banned apps, here are some reasons that might help you understand why TikTok puts the biggest impact. 

  • TikTok was launched in 2017, and it has become the fastest-growing social media apps.
  • India is the biggest market for the app, followed by the United States. 
  • Earlier this year, the Economic Times reported that average Indian TikTok users spent an average of 38 minutes daily using the app (vs 44 minutes on Instagram, or 35 minutes on Facebook).
  • TikTok was banned earlier in India in April 2019. Indian legislators raised concerns around child pornography, grooming, and cyberbullying on the platform. The ban was overturned after TikTok successful confirmed that suitable measures would be taken to fix these issues.
  • TikTok has been accused of not adequately safeguarding young users' data.
  • TikTok recently got into controversy due to a tiff between a YouTube creator Carryminati and TikTok user Amir Siqqidui where Indians bombarded the short video app with low ratings on Play Store and App Store.
  • TikTok has helped a lot of Indian creators to cater millions of followers, and the ban affects such creators as the platform was their primary source of earning.
  • The app recently managed to generate the most downloads ever in a quarter for any app, and India had the highest number of downloads by country with 611 million lifetime download.

Among all the apps banned, TikTok has the largest user base and it has been in the news due to controversies on different matters including data and privacy issues. 

TikTok alternatives are flourishing

The ban has come as a boon to Indian startups that cater to the same audience as TikTok. We made a list of Indian apps that may serve as a TikTok alternative. 

To recall, even biggies like Facebook have been aiming to take on TikTok since it first started to catch attention. Facebook launched Lasso to take on TikTok in 2018. Earlier this year, a report indicated that YouTube is going to launch 'Shorts' that rivals TikTok. Similarly, soon after the TikTok ban, Indian startups like RoposoChingari and Mitron have seen a rise in downloads after the ban.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

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Sudhanshu Singh

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