Chinese technology firm ByteDance said it is establishing a data centre in India to store Indian user data locally after several lawmakers alleged its popular short video app TikTok was illegally sharing user data with the Chinese government.
ByteDance will work on setting up the data centre in India over the next 6-18 months with an initial investment of a $100 million, the company spokesperson told ET. The company had earlier stated that it will invest a billion dollars over the next 3 years in India.
Several Parliamentarians, including Congress’ Shashi Tharoor, BJD’s Pinaki Misra and TDP’s Jayadev Galla, have accused short-video app TikTok of illegally collecting and sharing data with China, violating user privacy, spreading misinformation and anti-national messages. Last week, the economic wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh called for banning TikTok until India finalises data protection laws.
“Since the launch of our platforms in India, we have stored the data of our Indian users at industry-leading third-party data centres in the U.S. and Singapore. This is in line with our constant endeavour to ensure that we have the best interests of our local users at heart,” ByteDance said. “We are now in the process of examining options for safe, secure and reliable services for our Indian users within India’s borders.”
ByteDance claims that TikTok has 120 million monthly active users and Helo has about 50 million in India.
“Chinese companies have a different attitude toward technology regulations coming from a heavily regulated economy where privacy is viewed very differently. It makes sense from a strategic point of view because the relationship between India and China isn’t the same as India and the US. Chinese technology companies are seen with suspicion by the Indian government,” said Nikhil Narendran, partner of legal firm Trilegal.
Many Chinese companies such as Xiaomi and Alipay have agreed to locally store data in India to assuage government concerns.
“As a testimony to ByteDance’s recognition of India’s efforts to frame a new data protection legislation, we are pleased to announce that we are taking a significant step towards establishing a data centre in India,” it said.
Most foreign technology giants like Facebook and Google are resisting data localisation provisions of the proposed by the draft data protection bill, citing privacy concerns and higher storage costs.