TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has told India’s government that the ByteDance-owned platform has never been asked for user data by the Chinese Government – and wouldn’t hand it over even if it was.
As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Mayer made this assertion in a letter, dated June 28, sent in response to the Indian government’s banning of 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, in the market.
“The privacy of our users, and the security and sovereignty of India, are of utmost importance to us,” reportedly wrote Mayer, who only just took up the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ByteDance and CEO of TikTok last month.
As of last week, in addition to TikTok and QQ Music, other apps now banned in India include Baidu’s Baidu Map and Alibaba’s UC Browser, as well as social video app Kwai and filesharing app ShareIt.
The blocked apps, claims India’s Ministry of Information Technology, are “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
Relations between India and China intensified at the start of June following a deadly standoff at a disputed Himalayan border, which resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers.
“The privacy of our users, and the security and sovereignty of India, are of utmost importance to us.”
Kevin Mayer, TikTok
Citing a source close to ByteDance, Chinese news publication Global Times claims that TikTok has invested $1bn in the Indian market and Mayer’s letter reportedly sought to highlight the company’s investment in the region.
Global Times also reports the ban could cost ByteDance $6 billion in lost revenue, and that the “figure would exceed the potential losses of all the other apps combined”.
“I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users,” wrote Mayer in the letter last week. “If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, speaking to reporters on July 1, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed India’s decision to ban the apps, suggesting that the country’s “clean app approach will boost Indian’s sovereignty”.
Back in October, Senator Marco Rubio asked the US Government to launch an investigation into TikTok over censorship concerns.
The following month, a report suggested that ByteDance wanted to separate TikTok from its China-based operations ‘amid a US national security panel’s inquiry into the safety of the personal data it handles.’
In March, TikTok launched a heavyweight recruitment drive for some influential Washington-based policy experts in attempt to improve its relationships with decision makers in US Government.
According to recent estimates published by analytics firm Sensor Tower, in the first half of 2020, TikTok generated 626 million installs across the App Store and Google Play, ranking as the top non-game app by downloads
In terms of revenues, according to Sensor Tower, TikTok ranked No. 3 in the first of half of the year, generating $421 million on the App Store and Google Play.
In April, SensorTower reported that TikTok had surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide.
Its data suggested that India had been the biggest driver of this growth, with 611 million lifetime downloads of TikTok, or 30.3% of the total.Music Business Worldwide