Bowing to pressure from the central government, Chinese internet conglomerate ByteDance, which owns and operates short video app TikTok and chat app Helo, has announced that it will be setting up a dedicated data centre in the country.
The development comes days after the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) sent the company a letter with a three-page questionnaire on its policies on storage and processing of data collected from Indian users.
“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," an official statement said. "We are now in the process of examining options for safe, secure and reliable services for our Indian users within India's borders.”
The statement added that the company was looking at active dialogue with relevant stakeholders and setting new benchmarks.
The company did not give a clear timeline for setting up the facility.
ByteDance currently has 300 million users across the three apps it operates in India including TikTok, Helo and Vigo Video. TikTok has 120 million monthly active users (MAU) as on May 2019, according to reports.
ByteDance had announced an investment of $1 billion in India over the next three years. It is unclear whether the expenditure on the data centre will be part of the planned investment..
The company is currently storing Indian users' data at third-party data centers in the US and Singapore. The move to store Indian users’ data within the country was in compliance with the draft personal data protection bill, which mandates that a copy of the personal data needs to be stored within the country while critical data of Indian users is mandated to be stored only in India.
MeitY’s move to question TikTok on its data storage and usage norms came after Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office asking to regulate Chinese apps, which it says asks for 45% more permissions from users.