A month after India banned 59 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s popular short-video platforms TikTok and Helo, the company said it has informed the concerned authorities that it is now storing user data in the country. Earlier, TikTok used to keep all the user information from India on third-party servers in the US and Singapore.
Last month, when India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology blocked about almost five dozen Chinese apps citing cybersecurity concerns, TikTok had denied its involvement in sharing user data with third parties or that it has committed any other breach of privacy.
In a statement, Nikhil Gandhi, India head of TikTok, said, “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.”
He said the company “will continue to cooperate with the Government of India with the hope of making the TikTok platform available” to its users in the future.
Days after the ban, India had reportedly sent 70 questions to all the companies as part of its detailed inquiry of the matter. India constituted a high-level committee with officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics & IT, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, and Law & Justice to look into this matter.
“We have submitted our response to the government and are working with them to provide clarifications to allay the concerns they have. Throughout the duration of our operations, we have demonstrated unequivocal commitment to complying with local laws, including data privacy and security requirements,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
According to a local media Economic Times, the committee would analyze TikTok’s response and decide the future course of action. It might also seek a meeting with TikTok for further clarification.
This is not the first time TikTok has run into trouble with Indian authorities which was followed by a temporary ban. In 2019, Supreme Court of India banned TikTok for a week for pornographic content that appeared on the app. ByteDance, in a court filing had then said the ban resulted in financial losses of up to USD 500,000 a day for its developer.
India is one of the most important markets for TikTok. Of the overall two billion app installs of TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin in April, India accounted for 611 million app downloads.
Meanwhile, Indian short-video apps that were either unknown or were really small till now, have suddenly started seeing rapid rise in user engagement. Companies such as In-Mobi-owned Roposo, Chingari, Trell, and Mitron TV, among half a dozen other homegrown apps have said TikTok users and creators have started migrating to their platforms.
Update: We have added TikTok’s response in the story.