TikTok is engaging with India over ban and already complies with local privacy and security requirements, CEO says

Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of TikTok said on Wednesday that the popular short-form video app complies with “all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law,” two days after New Delhi banned 59 apps including Mayer’s citing security concerns.

Addressing TikTok’s 2000 employees in India on Wednesday, Mayer said ByteDance, the parent firm of the Chinese app, would do “everything in our power to restore the positive experiences and opportunities that they can be proud of.”

With more than 200 million of its users in India, TikTok counts Asia’s third-largest economy as its biggest overseas market.

New Delhi announced late Monday that it was blocking 59 apps that have been developed by Chinese firms. Among the apps that have been blocked include Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and UC News. An Alibaba Group spokesperson in India did not respond to a request for comment.

The Indian government alleged that these apps were “compiling, mining and profiling” users’ data that posed threats to “national security and defence of India.”

In his address today, which TikTok later published on its blog, Mayer said that his firm “places the highest importance on user privacy and integrity.” TikTok was working with various stakeholders in India to address their concerns, he said.

Mayer’s address to his employees comes a day after TikTok pulled its app from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store in India and revoked existing users in the world’s second-largest internet market from accessing its service. Visiting the TikTok app or the mobile website in India currently returns an error that states TikTok is in the process of complying with New Delhi’s order.

“Today, it is a staple and reality for TikTok users even in remote cities, towns and villages across the country. Empowered individual creators have become the most sought-after for digital marketing campaigns. Small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs have been able to realise their growth ambitions and dreams by reaching out to thousands of potential customers and consumers on a daily basis through the platform,” said Mayer.

It remains unclear at this point when — and if — India would reverse its ban on TikTok and other apps. TikTok, the most popular app among the 59 apps blocked by India, has been particularly hit by New Delhi’s order.

Google and Apple said Tuesday that the Indian government had asked them to only pull the TikTok app from their stores and that TikTok had voluntarily delisted its app from the nation.

Other apps remain available on the Google Play Store and App Store at the time of writing. Though India’s Department of Telecommunications has since ordered Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance Jio to block access to all the banned apps on their networks with “immediate effect.”

TikTok has been facing backlash in India for several weeks as an anti-China sentiment gains pace in the nation. A skirmish between the two neighboring nations at a disputed Himalayan border site that left 20 Indian soldiers dead last month further escalated that tension.

In May, several users unearthed and shared numerous recent TikTok videos on Twitter that appeared to promote domestic violence, animal cruelty, racism, child abuse and objectification of women. This prompted many in India to leave a poor rating of the TikTok app in the Google Play Store to express their disgust.

“Our partnership efforts with credible national and global organisations such as UN Women, United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF and CRY have raised awareness and advocated for concerted action to end gender-based, domestic violence and child marriage,” Mayer said today.