TikTok sees increase in government requests for user data

The number of legal requests from governments for TikTok user data increased from the previous half of the year, with India and the U.S. leading those requests, according to TikTok’s new transparency report.

The transparency report published on Thursday looks at the second half of 2019 (July-December). During that time, governments around the world made 500 legal demands — the U.S. making up 100 of those requests — either from law enforcement or government entities about user info and content. India led all other countries with a total of 302 requests.

None of the 500 demands came from Hong Kong or China. That may be because TikTok operates a different app, Douyin, in the Chinese market. A TikTok spokesperson referred Digital Trends to Douyin for comment about how often China and Hong Kong’s government requested user data.

A Douyin spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to Digital Trends. We will update this story when we hear back.

Overall, TikTok removed more than 49 million videos for violating the app’s community guidelines. Over 16 million videos were removed in India, followed by more than 4 million videos in the U.S.

TikTok’s number of government requests for user removal totaled 45,  the U.S. only having one government request that resulted in an account being removed or restricted.  

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The report comes just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps such as TikTok. In an interview with Fox News, Pompeo warned people they should only download the app if they want their “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

It’s not the first time the U.S. government has scrutinized TikTok. In February last year, TikTok was fined $5.7 million for violating COPPA, a children’s privacy law. Then, in November, the U.S. government launched a national security investigation into the app, particularly looking at the company’s acquisition of the app, Musical.ly. 

India,  TikTok’s second-largest market, was the first to officially ban the app last month, citing data privacy concerns with other various China-based apps. TikTok is also not operating in Hong Kong anymore, due to a controversial new security law that threatens free speech.

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