ByteDance under govt scrutiny for data collection by TikTok, Helo

ByteDance under govt scrutiny for data collection by TikTok, Helo
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18 Jul, 2019

In a three-page letter issued to short video app TikTok and language chat app Helo, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has sought responses on data collection and the use of the information by the apps. 

The holding company of these apps, Chinese internet conglomerate ByteDance, is required to respond to the extensive questionnaire before July 22.

The annexure to the letter issued by MeitY covers 24 questions pertaining to permissions sought by the apps from users, the storage location of the data and the use of data. The questionnaire was framed on the basis of a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), a think tank affiliated to the RSS, on July 13, 2019. The letter asked for a new law that would require the testing and regulation of apps.

"India is one of our strongest markets and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 Indian languages. In line with our commitment to India, we are investing $1 billion dollars in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program,” TikTok and Helo said in a statement today. 

“We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the government to meet and exceed our obligations,” the statement added in the context of the questions asked by MeitY

SJM had also written a letter to the PM in  February 2019, stating that TikTok, Helo and other apps ask for 45% more permissions than other apps and that the apps were impacting the social fabric of the country. The letters sought a ban on the apps. 

“Previously there were no laws and there was no law required to regulate it but we need one now. The data collected by the apps can put the lives of security personnel and civilians in danger by relaying location services. We are aware of the letter sent to the apps by MeitY,” said Ashwani Mahajan, All India co-convener of SJM. 

Following the letter in February, a case was registered in Madras High Court seeking a ban on short video app TikTok, which was lifted by the court three weeks later.