The Indian government banned the app in June 2020, stating that they were doing so to protect the data and privacy of its 1.3 billion citizens. They stated that TikTok was a national security concern, because the app gathered user data in ways that compromised the safety of Indian citizens.
The app had been gathering user data from the moment the app was available in India, but what prompted the ban was a bloody affair over a decades-long border conflict between India and China.
Negotiations took place in May between the two countries, but it all broke down on May 5th, 2020, when Indian and Chinese forces came to head along the Sino-Indian border.
Because TikTok is a Chinese app, India banned it to prevent China from spying on its citizens. Even though other apps (like Facebook) also collect extensive user data, TikTok gathers more data than other popular apps.
It also goes out of its way to hide the extent of its data collecting. The fact that TikTok is secretive about the kind of data it collects was too concerning for India’s government, so their next course of action was to issue a country-wide ban.
To put things into perspective, here’s a list of the kind of information TikTok gathers from its users:
- Phone CPU type
- Phone number
- Phone memory usage
- Phone hardware IDs
- IP address
- Wi-Fi access point name
- Router information
- GPS pinging
- Phone model
- File names
- Keystroke patterns
- Connected audio devices
- Activity outside the app
The above information is readily available in the TikTok terms of service. What worried the Indian government the most was how TikTok encrypts their analytics to hide how much data they have, especially because they believe that TikTok has poor security.
All apps gather user data in some way, but the kind of data TikTok gathers is incredibly personal. For a country with tense relations with China, that kind of data gathering became too invasive.
It is uncertain if TikTok will ever come back to India, especially given how much the app goes out of its way to hide how much data they are gathering from its users. If the border conflict between them can be fixed, then there’s a chance for TikTok to be unbanned in India.