TikTok Retains Access to Indian Users’ Personal Data After 2020 Ban: Report
TikTok was banned in India in 2020, along with several other applications, following border tensions with China nearly three years ago. The app, which was popular among users before it was banned, continues to retain information on its users from India who can no longer access the video sharing platform, according to a report. TikTok is currently facing the possibility of a ban in the US, where the app has grown in popularity, over national security concerns. Meanwhile, other countries like Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, the UK, and the EU have blocked the use of TikTok on government devices.
According to a Forbes report based on a review of internal programmes of TikTok and parent firm ByteDance, the companies have access to the user data of accounts from India, even after the app was banned in 2020. A TikTok employee also told the publication that the company has the ability to identify users’ connections and personally identifiable information, including Indian users’ profiles.
The ban on TikTok by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in 2020 led to Google and Apple removing TikTok from the Play Store and App Store, respectively. While users on Android can sideload the application, the service blocked access for users with Indian IP addresses or when the SIM card of an Indian network provider was detected. The ban on TikTok was made permanent in 2021.
However, as per the report, all the data that was previously shared by users in India, including their posts, social interactions with friends and acquaintances, and other details that were accessible to TikTok, were not deleted after the service was banned in the country. A TikTok spokesperson told Forbes that the company had “steadfastly complied, and continue to remain in full compliance, with the Government of India order since it was implemented.”
TikTok reportedly had around 100 million users in India when the app was banned in the country. The service now faces the possibility of a ban in the US, where it recently crossed the 150 million user mark. However, the Forbes report highlights the issues with retention of historical data, even after an app is banned in a country. Gadgets 360 has reached out to MeitY for comment and will update this story when we receive a response.