India Bans 54 Chinese Apps Over Security Threat Concerns

India Bans 54 Chinese Apps Over Security Threat Concerns
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On February 14th, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued orders to ban 54 Chinese apps (including the popular Free Fire game). These apps were banned for being a threat to national security. 

The new apps, IT ministry officials said, have been banned under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act. Most of these apps, the officials said, were operating as clones or shadow apps of the apps that had earlier been banned by the government.

India's fears are partly justified, believes Maria Belyaeva, the BRICS Competition Centre expert. 

"China itself conducts so-called "cyberspace cleansing" and regularly identifies offending applications that incorrectly handle user data. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology does this. First, it warns that it has detected a violation and asks that it be eliminated, and then it removes the offender from the app stores. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of such applications are identified per month. This applies equally to technology companies of all sizes: the technology giant Tencent recently came under scrutiny and was required to submit all new products and updates to existing programs for mandatory technical verification before release”.

The Chinese apps have also been removed from the Google Play Store. In its statement, Google said that it temporarily blocked access to the apps in India. A spokesperson for the company said:

“On receipt of the interim order passed under Section 69A of the IT Act, following established process, we have notified the affected developers and have temporarily blocked access to the apps that remained available on the Play Store in India".

Which other apps has India banned in the past?

In June 2020, the IT ministry had, in a similar order issued under Section 69 of the IT Act, banned 59 apps, including TikTok, ShareIt, UC Browser, Likee, WeChat, and Bigo Live. In its reasoning then, the ministry had said that these apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

The first ban was followed by another set of 47 apps being barred from operations in India from July 2020. These apps were mostly proxies of the apps banned in June 2020.

Later, on September 2 that year, the IT ministry banned another 118 Chinese mobile apps, which included the popular gaming platform PUBG as well as Baidu, which is China’s largest search engine provider. In total so far, close to 300 apps and their proxies have been banned by the IT ministry.

Maria Belyaeva also reminds us of the political side of the issue:

"Sino-Indian relations are relatively tense right now. India at the last moment announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, and now calls on its students to refuse to study in Chinese universities".

The measures to block Chinese apps were taken in the backdrop of the ongoing territorial dispute between India and China in eastern Ladakh. The standoff has been going on since April 2020.

Sources: The Indian Express, National Herald India

digital markets  India 

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