TikTok is once again under the scanner of IT ministry. The Cyber Laws and e-security wing of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has now sent notice to TikTok and Helo app operators. The notice asks these apps to respond to concerns around allegedly committing anti-Indian and unlawful activities. The ministry has reportedly sent a list of questions to operators of these applications. These apps face a ban in the country if an appropriate response isn’t furnished.
They will also face action as per the relevant provisions of the IT Act and other laws. According to PTI, the notice includes a long questionnaire covering a range of issues. They include unauthorized data sharing by these apps. The platforms are being termed as hub for anti-national activities. The Helo allegedly paid for putting 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media platforms.
The ministry has also reportedly stated that “the concerns raised are serious in nature and needs a detailed explanation” from these app platforms. “A detailed list of questions is enclosed herewith. You are hereby called upon to submit your response to the questions on or before 22nd July, 2019, failing which government may take necessary action to ban these apps,” the ministry states in the letter.
The questions shared by the ministry aims to understand whether TikTok and Helo are collecting excessive data. It also wants to understand the kind of data these two apps are collecting. The questionnaire also asks whether the data is being stored in China. These apps however claim that their data storage is in the US and Singapore only. There is also question of whether these apps can assure that data of Indian users will not be transferred to any other foreign government or a private entity.
“We are grateful for the immense support given to us by India’s growing digital community. India is one of our strongest markets and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 Indian languages,” the app developers said in a joint statement. “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 which we are proud to be assisting with already.”
“Our continued success in India will not be possible without the support of our local community. 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 action is being taken after filing of complaints against these companies from some agencies. RSS and its affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) even wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. SJM co-convener Ashwani Mahajan has requested PM Narendra Modi to ban TikTok and Helu. Mahajan blamed these apps had become a hub for “anti-national” content.