We have recently heard that ByteDance, the parent company of the (in)famous TikTok, has agreed to store data locally in India and that will be accomplished in 6 to 18 months. This is a first for India where a company has agreed to store data locally but we should take this news with a pinch of salt. The announcement was made just a few days after ministry of electronics and information technology sent them a three-page questionnaire on their data storage and processing policies.

 

Deep Dive with Abhinav Khare explores the app Tiktok, the latest craze, which is a platform for making and sharing short video clips. The revenue model for TikTok is very simple: advertisers and users. It not just makes its millions from the engagement time of users, if reports are to be believed, this app mints money from user data as well.
 
It is not unknown that the Chinese government is a major collector and user of privacy data. A London-based market research firm called IHS Markit has reported that the Chinese government has 176 million surveillance cameras at work in 2016 and the number shall reach 626 million by 2020. A November 2018 report by China Consumer Association also revealed that out of the 100 apps they have been investigated, 91 of them had over collected private data.

If we glance through the privacy policies of the Chinese apps, most of them just gather huge amounts of private data including photos, videos, location, contacts and even full network access just through a one-tap consent option. Most often, individuals do not read through, and end up sharing huge volumes of data.
 
The Indian government too hasn’t been all welcoming with respect to the Chinese apps. The intelligence bureau has even issued an advisory against 42 popular Chinese apps which may pose a threat to India. The Indian Air Force too has asked its airmen to avoid phones manufactured by Chinese companies as they may transfer data to remote servers in China. 

TikTok is currently storing our data in third party data centres in Singapore and the United States. Many Chinese companies like Xiaomi and Alipay have agreed to store data locally. As proposed by the new Data Protection Bill, all companies should store their data locally in India but tech giants like Facebook and Google have resisted this citing increased costs and privacy concerns.
 
Social media is like the forbidden fruit; you consume it despite knowing that it may potentially be detrimental. The Cambridge Analytica case showed us how the personal data was no longer personal and that it did matter to people that their personal data was not in safe hands. But did we learn from the incident? That only will time to tell...