Chinese app TikTok still has troves of personal data of Indians: Report
Facing a nationwide ban in the US, Chinese short-form video making platform TikTok still have access to “troves of personal data of Indian citizens” who once used the app before it was banned in June 2020 by the Indian government over national security concerns along with several other Chinese apps.
New Delhi, March 22,2023: Facing a nationwide ban in the US, Chinese short-form video making platform TikTok still have access to “troves of personal data of Indian citizens” who once used the app before it was banned in June 2020 by the Indian government over national security concerns along with several other Chinese apps.
According to a report in Forbes, the data of Indian users “remain widely accessible to employees at the company and its Beijing-based parent ByteDance”.
Before the ban, TikTok had about 150 million monthly active users in the country.
“I don’t think Indians are aware of how much of their data is exposed to China right now, even with the ban in place,” a current TikTok employee told Forbes.
Almost anyone at the companies with basic access to their tools can retrieve and analyse granular data about past TikTok users in India, “including everyone from prominent public figures to the average person”.
ByteDance has more than 110,000 employees around the world, including in China, the US and Russia.
In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said they “have steadfastly complied, and continue to remain in full compliance, with the government of India order since it was implemented”.
“All user data is subject to our robust internal policy controls surrounding access, retention, and deletion,” the company spokesperson was quoted as saying.
This powerful demographic data, especially on TikTok’s unmatched Gen Z userbase, could also be highly valuable for commercial purposes, the report said, quoting the TikTok employee.
The Chinese short video-making app sacked its entire India staff — about 40 employees – in February.
The ByteDance-owned platform reportedly told its employees they would receive up to nine months of severance package. However, most of the staff will only get three-month severance.
In a statement to IANS, a company spokesperson had said that “we have taken the decision to close our India remote sales support hub, which was put in place at the end of 2020 to provide support to our global and regional sales teams”.
“We greatly appreciate these employees and their impact on our company, and will ensure they are supported at this difficult time,” the TikTok spokesperson added.
In June 2020, the government banned TikTok along with 59 other Chinese apps citing security concerns.
Since then, the country has banned over 300 Chinese apps, including WeChat, Shareit, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser and many more.
The Centre in February blocked over 230 apps, including 138 betting and about 94 loan apps, which were traced to Chinese links.