TikTok is defending its data privacy and security provisions in India following the Indian government's sudden decision to ban the video sharing app—along with 58 other mostly Chinese-owned apps—citing security risks related to India's sovereignty.
"TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government," said Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok, India in a statement obtained by Campaign. "Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity."
Gandhi said TikTok has been invited to meet with "concerned government stakeholders" and will have a chance "to respond and submit clarifications".
He went on to defend TikTok's importance in India, arguing it has helped to democratise the internet by making its content available in 14 Indian languages and noting "hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers depending on it for their livelihood, many of whom are first time internet users."
Last month, TikTok faced public outrage in India, including from Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of the National Commission for Women, after a video making fun of the victims of acid attacks was posted. Sharma had called for TikTok to be banned.
Contacted by Campaign at the time, TikTok stated that it does not allow content that risks the safety of others, promotes physical harm or glorifies violence against women. TikTok emphasised that as a platform for user-generated content, it needs to follow internal procedures to delete content but the video was removed by the blogger who posted it.
The move also comes amid tense Sino-Indian relations following deadly troop clashes along the Chinese and Indian Himalayan border.
Currently, TikTok claims 200 million users in India, including 120 million monthly active users. According to SenseTower, installations in India contributed about 44% of TikTok's total downloads in September 2019.