TikTok deal with Oracle may not lead easing of ban in India


The ‘technical partnership’ deal struck between US-based business software provider Oracle and ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, is unlikely to bring cheers to users of the mobile app in India as the Centre is reportedly in no mood to relax the ban on the short-video platform.

It has been reported that ByteDance was expected to lose up to $6 billion (about Rs 45,000 crore) after India decided to ban it citing concerns about privacy and national security of the country. Last month, US President Donald Trump has said he would allow an American company to buy TikTok’s US operations, setting a September 20 deadline.

At present, it is unclear whether the proposed Oracle deal will only cover TikTok’s US operations, and, if so, how it will be split from the rest of the Beijing-based social media platform. The alliance, even if it extends to India, will not be enough as it does not confirm the Centre that Indian users’ data will be secure and won’t be sent overseas. Selecting Oracle as its “trusted tech partner” instead of an “outright sale” may not be “adequate” to ease the Indian government’s worries about data transfer to Chinese servers, the business daily quoted one of the officials as saying.

The financial daily quoted the second official as saying, “The reasons for banning the app are more than just ownership… The ownership is only a partial and a small part of the concern. The larger issue is around security and data privacy, and unless those concerns are addressed, the ban will not be revoked.”

On Monday, the owner of TikTok picked Oracle over Microsoft as the American tech partner that could help keep the popular video-sharing app running in the US business. The deal will, however, require approval from the US government, which has issued an executive order to ban the app if it is not sold to an American company by September 20.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” the tech giant had said in a statement on Sunday.

Late last month, the Chinese practically blocked in TikTok’s sale talks with Microsoft and others by issuing new export curbs on the kind of artificial intelligence technology TikTok uses. 

Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder of Greyhound Research, told the publication: “This deal (TikTok-Oracle) won’t satisfy the Indian government from the data security point of view even if the deal included India. This deal is about data hosting, not change in data ownership. You need an Indian player to navigate India’s policy framework.” 

TikTok claims it has 100 million users in America and about 700 million globally, and India is one of the largest markets for the video app along with the US.

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