Indian government bans 59 Chinese mobile apps amid border standoff

The government has banned hugely popular apps like TikTok, WeChat, Helo, UC Browser citing privacy concerns

chinese app

In a huge blow to Chinese technology companies, the Central government of India announced a ban on 59 apps, including TikTok and WeChat as the tensions between India and China continue to fume, various media reports cited.

Citing that the apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India and the security of state and public order”, the government banned the 59 apps, adding that the move would safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users and would ensure the sovereignty of the Indian cyberspace.



The apps have been banned under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource).

The ban on these apps came days after Indian intelligence agencies red flagged concerns over safety and privacy issues. In mid-June, Indian intelligence agencies had asked the government to block or advise people to stop using 53 mobile apps linked to China over concerns that the apps weren’t safe and ended up extracting a large amount of data outside India, Hindustan Times had reported. The list of apps included video conferencing app Zoom, TikTok, UC Browser, ShareIt and Clean master among others.

A government official also told HT that the recommendations by these agencies were supported by the National Security Council Secretrariat as well.

In response to the announcement by the Indian government, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian said that China was concerned about India’s decision to ban the apps and was verifying the facts of the matter. He added that the Chinese government always asks Chinese business to abide by international rules and local laws and regulations in business cooperation with foreign countries. The Indian government has a responsibility to uphold the legal rights of the international investors. He also said that the cooperation was a win-win for both countries and that undermining such cooperation went against India’s own interests.



How will Indian users be affected?

Apps like TikTok have a user base of around 100 million, who are mainly in the heartland. This app is also the source of income for many users, but with the ban, and given the nature of the ban (national security), it looks like these users will have to look for substitutes as there is no telling if the app will be reinstated. Also, companies like UC News have offices in India and the ban will affect many employees working for the same.

However, Livemint reported that the Union government has given an opportunity to these companies to explain their case regarding compliance to privacy and security parameters. An official told Livemint, “The due process of the law requires an analysis of what the matter is on record. This is an ‘interim order’ (of banning apps). There is a process defined in the information technology law, with regard to the blocking of apps. A government committee will look into it and will pass a more detailed order. The companies will be given a fair opportunity and have been asked to explain their case.”

TikTok has also issued a statement in the matter, saying that it has democratized the internet by making the app available in 14 Indian languages and has not shared any information of its users in India with any foreign government.



Chinese companies have already been facing the heat from the world over for alleged snooping. The US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that all Chinese companies function as the arms of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to further its ideological and geopolitical agendas, reported India Today. Last week, the Pentagon had released an ‘initial’ list of Chinese military-linked companies, including Huawei, which the defense department believed were linked to the People’s Liberation Army.

Huawei could also be banned from participating in India’s 5G network rollout, since the announcement of the ban on the Chinese apps. Huawei has already been banned by the US, Australia and Japan, while UK has offered the company a limited participation in its 5G rollout, CNBC reported.


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