India has taken the lead in ensuring data security and sovereignty of its citizens by blocking apps such as TikTok and US President Donald Trump has taken note of this move in his executive orders, said telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday.
“India has been pursuing all means to protect the digital security, privacy, and rights of its citizens. It has exercised sovereign powers for defence and security of India while blocking apps including TikTok and the move is now resonating globally,” Prasad told ET.
He was speaking a day after US President Donald Trump issued separate executive orders banning US residents from transacting with ByteDance, owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok, as well as with Tencent-owned WeChat app. The order takes effect in 45 days.
Citing the block previously imposed by the Indian government, the order against ByteDance said: “…in a statement, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asserted that they (TikTok) were ‘stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India’.”
Trump also touched upon India and Australia in the order against WeChat.
Response to government queries
“These risks have led other countries, including Australia and India, to begin restricting or banning the use of WeChat. The United States must take aggressive action against the owner of WeChat to protect our national security,” he said.
Prasad said it was a matter of personal satisfaction that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ministry of electronics and IT had blocked the Chinese apps.
“The order of the American President has also noted its contribution,” Prasad added.
The ban in the US comes at a time tech giant Microsoft is in talks with ByteDance to explore a purchase of the TikTok service in North America, Australia and New Zealand. The deal, according to a Financial Times news report, could expand to other markets including India.
In India, TikTok and WeChat were among the over 100 apps which has been blocked since the end of June to counter the threat posed by these applications to the country’s “sovereignty and security”. TikTok said it has submitted its response to the 79 questions raised by the Indian government after blocking it.
But according to people familiar with the matter, Indian government has prima facie found the answers to questions ranging from data security to beneficial ownership and corporate structure to be ‘inadequate’ and ‘repetitive’ in nature. The government is now evaluating the next steps in the matter.
A TikTok spokesperson told ET that the company was awaiting feedback from the government on its responses. “We look forward to engage with them and provide clarification to allay any concerns. Throughout the duration of our operations, we have demonstrated unequivocal commitment to complying with the local laws, including data privacy and security requirements,” the spokesperson said.
TikTok had grown exponentially in India. Before being blocked, it was the company’s largest market with more than 650 million downloads and 200 million registered users. According to industry estimates, it had over 100 million daily active users spending 40-45 minutes on the app in the country.