NEW BAN ON 118 CHINESE APPS
This year in June, The Government of India - Ministry of Information and Technology had banned 59 apps with Chinese links which were referred to as a “digital strike” followed by a skirmish with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site in June where 20 Indian Soldiers were killed. These apps that were banned included popular apps like Tik Tok, UC Browser, Weibo, etc., Also these bans were made citing cybersecurity concern, geopolitical tensions between the two neighbouring nations at the border- India & China.
Now very recently on Wednesday, India’s IT Ministry ordered to ban another 118 apps. The blocking of apps was announced after a Senior Indian Military official said troops were deployed on 4 strategic hilltops after what the Government called an attempt by China’s incursion along the disputed Himalayan border. The newly banned apps include Search Engine Baidu, WeChat, CamCard, Cyber Hunter, Dawn of Isles, Smart Applock, gaming apps like Rules of Survival, Arena of Valor, etc. The highlighting factor among the banning of the apps is the most famous and popular gaming app which ranks among top 5 smartphone games consisting of 734 million downloads and close to 50 million active players in India; surveys show that there are 13 million users who use the app 24/7. This famous app is none other than PUBG, the wildly popular online multiplayer shooting game.
According to research, India accounts for more than a quarter of PUBG’s lifetime installs. Most importantly Tencent introduced the mobile version of PUBG which made the app to reach the peak in the number of users especially during the lockdown. However, after the ban was made, Tencent declined to comment on the announcement and the Chinese embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to a request or comment on anything related to the apps or PUBG.
The Ministry of IT and Electronics made these bans invoking its power under Article 69A of The Information Technology Act under the provisions made under the Constitution of India – Rules of 2009 (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public). The Ministry stated that this decision was made keeping in mind the “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of a state and public order.” They further stated that “The move will help safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security, and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.”
The Ministry also said that they had received many complaints from various sources including various reports about misuse and misconduct of mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing, illegality and for surreptitiously and in a corrupt way, transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized or unofficial way to servers which have locations out of India. Also, there has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harms and poses a threat to the privacy of Indian citizens. According to the Ministry the compilation of these data its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India and it’s a matter of a very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures. The Home Ministry, as well as the Public Domain, had also recommended blocking these malicious and controversial apps.
India's prohibitions have stalled business operations of several Chinese companies in India. They have also forced Alibaba, a major backer of Indian tech start-ups, to put on hold all plans to invest in the country for at least six months. However, tech analysts say there is a risk the sudden change in the business environment which will deter Chinese investment more generally.
Reporter: Agni Tejas