The ban on TikTok is the talk of the town. All hell broke loose for Tiktok when the popular short-form video platform recently find out that the Indian government has shut them down along with 58 other apps of Chinese-origin in India.
Since its launch in 2017, for TikTok, India has so far been a country of strategic importance when it comes to growth. by the end of Q1 2020, was reported to have garnered over 200 million users in India. It should also be noted that India has been TikTok’s largest market outside China followed by the United States. Thus, this is why the company is currently fighting tooth and nail to prove that they are a valued addition to India’s app economy and have nothing to do with its Chinese counterparts.
According to Reuters, Kevin Mayer who is the Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, on June 28th has sent a letter to the Indian Government explaining that the Chinese Government has never requested any user data from them nor would they turn it over even when asked. Hence, requesting the Indian government to reconsider revoke the imposed ban on TikTok.
But, does TikTok carry the required credibility to have weightage in their words, is the question that will define the future of TikTok in India.
Ban On TikTok
In the recent few years, China as a country has built a nasty reputation for overseas espionage. This is why most of the global companies which are of Chinese-origin often tend to be subjected to increased government scrutiny in the countries they are operating in. Tiktok, which is owned by the China-based company ByteDance is no different and has come under the scanner of both US and Indian watchdogs multiple times when it comes to privacy.
Even though TikTok has created data centres in India and is supposedly complying to the data localisation laws of this country, it doesn’t necessarily mean the scope of data leakage has completely been wiped off.
Time and time again, many glaring loopholes in the security of the TikTok platform has surfaced. For instance, in a report published in January, Check Point which is a cybersecurity firm pointed out how the platform happens to be riddled with security flaws which could easily allow a threat actor to take control of user accounts, manipulate the content, upload and delete videos and reveal personal information such as a private email address.
In the month of April, another security vulnerability surfaced showing how TikTok, to improve their app’s performance, relies on a CDN which is a lesser form of a secure HTTP connection which can allow an attacker to easily decipher HTTP Traffic and replace the videos of any chosen account with other fake ones.
Now, albeit most of these security shortcomings in the platform have been taken care of by the company at its earliest, it shows that the security infrastructure of Tiktok is still in its nascent stage and cannot be relied upon when it comes to keeping user information safe and uncompromised.
According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the decision of banning 59 Chinese origin apps including TikTok, apart from being a payback move for the border conflicts, is a measure to keep the data of Indian users safe from apps that have been reported to ‘engage in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India’.
Thus, it can be easily predicted how TikTok’s primary reasoning to be exempted from this ban can fail to gain the confidence of the Indian government as the platform needs to heavily upgrade its security infrastructure before it can actually guarantee the safety of the information of Indian users for real.
In the letter, Mayer was also observed to be significantly playing up the company’s investment in the region as it highlighted that TikTok currently employs more than 3,500 direct and indirect employees and has content available in 14 Indian languages. According to an anonymous source of Reuters, this particular letter was sent ahead of a likely meeting next week between the company and the government.
The ban on TikTok has heavily affected the ever-growing legion of ‘Tiktokers’ has currently given a huge growth boost to its Indian rival Roposo which has been reported to have added close to 22 million new users in the 48 hours post the ban coming into effect.
Currently, while TikTok is trying to pursue the Indian Government to change its verdict, an Indian government source has revealed to Reuters that it is highly unlikely for the ban to be revoked anytime soon. Also, various lawyers who have been consulted with regarding the same have replied in a similar way because, according to them, as India has cited national security concerns for the ban, a legal challenge was unlikely to be successful.