TikTok said that it did not receive any requests for user information from the Chinese government including law enforcement agencies in the first half of 2019, and that India was the leading source for such requests, according to the platform’s first-ever transparency report released on Dec. 30.
Why it matters: TikTok has been trying to convince US lawmakers that the platform does not pose privacy, censorship, or national security risks despite its Chinese ownership.
- Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok, has been moving to separate the short video platform from its Chinese businesses since as early as the third quarter of 2019.
- Alex Zhu, the head of TikTok, had planned to meet with three Republican lawmakers before the end of the year but postponed the meeting, citing scheduling issues and the holiday rush.
“We take any request from government bodies extremely seriously, and closely review each such request we receive to determine whether, for example, the request adheres to the required legal process or the content violates a local law. TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while respecting the privacy and rights of our users.”
—TikTok in the transparency report
Details: Out of the 298 legal requests for user information TikTok received in the first half of 2019, close to 36% or 107 came from India, which made the highest number of requests, followed by 79 requests from the US.
- TikTok said it provided authorities with some user information for 47% of requests from India, and 86% of all requests from the US.
- The company said that it reviews any information request carefully for legal sufficiency.
- TikTok also removed content that is deemed illegal by governments in different countries. Government bodies in India, for instance, sent 11 such requests during the first half of 2019, resulting in eight account removals or restrictions.
Context: The US Army and Navy in late December banned the use of TikTok on government-issued phones, citing potential cybersecurity threats from the app.
- Bloomberg reported last month that Bytedance has considered selling stakes in TikTok to protect the business, but Bytedance denied all such claims.