Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has alleged that TikTok, a video sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is illegally collecting data of Indian users and sending it to China. While speaking during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, the politician cited reports, which claimed that the Chinese government received data from TikTok through the wholly state-owned China Telecom. Calling it an issue of national security, Tharoor said that the data leakage is happening due to the absence of a robust comprehensive data protection framework.
“In the age of smartphones, apps, social media, and the Internet, India is generating mind-boggling data, and it can be exploited by vested interests to engage in profiling, to make profits and for political control. Recently, the federal regulators in the US slapped a fine of $5.7 million (approx Rs 39 crores) on the social media app TikTok for illegally collecting data on children,” Tharoor said (via PTI). He urged the government to introduce a comprehensive legal framework to protect fundamental rights to privacy and save the democracy of the country.
Meanwhile, TikTok has refuted the allegations levelled by the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. “These claims are simply untrue. The privacy and security of our users is a top priority for TikTok, and we abide by local laws and regulations in the markets where we operate,” TikTok was quoted as saying. The company said that it “does not operate in the People’s Republic of China and their government has no access to TikTok users’ data, nor does it have any existing partnership with China Telecom.” “Our Indian users’ data is stored in the US and Singapore at industry-leading third-party data centres,” it added.
Earlier this year, Madras High Court banned the app in India due to some allegedly obscene content and child abuse on the platform. However, the app maker promised to implement stricter policies regarding content on the platform, and the ban was subsequently lifted. TikTok later brought Safety Quiz, Digital Wellbeing, Screen Time Management, and Restricted Mode features to the app, all seeking to improve the overall user experience on the app. TikTok is also legally obliged to keep its platform free of obscene and abusive content.
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