A new report has claimed that data of Indian users remain widely accessible to employees at the company and its Beijing-based parent ByteDance.
By Ankita Chakravarti: It has been more than three years since TikTok was banned in India. However, an explosive report has revealed that the Chinese photo-sharing app still has access to to “troves of personal data of Indian citizens” who used the app extensively before it was uprooted by the Indian government over national security reasons. Forbes reports that the data of Indian users “remain widely accessible to employees at the company and its Beijing-based parent ByteDance”. TikTok had approximately 150 million monthly active users in India before the ban was enforced.
“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 TikTok employee told Forbes.The report further highlighted that anyone at the company with basic access to its tools can retrieve and analyze granular data about past TikTok users in India, including public figures and the average person.
Even though TikTok is no longer available in India, its parent company ByteDance has over 110,000 employees worldwide, including in China, the US, and Russia.The report highlights that TikTok users in India, predominantly comprising of Generation Z (Gen Z) users, could be a valuable source of demographic data for businesses looking to target this age group.
However, TikTok does not agree with the claims made by Forbes.The company has responded by stating that 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.
Earlier this year, TikTok wiped out its India staff of approximately 40 employees, who were reportedly promised up to nine months of severance pay, although most will only receive three months. A company spokesperson said that the decision was made to close the India remote sales support hub put in place in 2020 to support global and regional sales teams.
“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 said.
India has banned over 300 Chinese apps since the initial ban, including WeChat, Shareit, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, and UC Browser, citing security concerns. In February, the country blocked over 230 apps, including 138 betting and about 94 loan apps, which had Chinese links. The Indian government’s concerns stem from the potential misuse of personal data and the links between these apps and the Chinese Communist Party.