India banned 59 apps including TikTok, Helo, UC Browser

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New Delhi: India banned 59 apps including TikTok, Helo, Likee, UC Browser and other apps citing risks and threats to country’s sovereignty, integrity and security.

Besides, India raised concerns about data security and privacy of 130 core Indians.

India banned 59 apps late on Monday, after the Indian government called them, “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

“It is “invoking it’s power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 59 apps since in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state and public order,” Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) said in a statement.

“At the same time, there have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the stated added.

Ministry of Information Technoloogy (IT) made claims that it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.

“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, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement said.

This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. “This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” said the ministry.

However, in the entire two-page ministry statement, there is no mention of “China” or “Chinese apps” with regard to the imposed banning of apps. Although a majority of banned apps have strong China links because of ownership and their server locations

Indian government’s decision to ban 59 apps come after recent on-going India-China boarder clashes in Galwan Valley, Ladakh.

List of 59 apps that are banned

The ban on 59 apps, simply meant that these apps will not accessible to use and download in India. Having said, the government’s ban has many technical challenges as of now. How the banning of these apps will be done technically remains unclear.

Will the Indian government ask telecoms and ISPs (internet service providers) to block access to these banned apps? Will the Indian government ask Apple and Google to remove these apps from their respective app stores? Is still not clear.

Secondly, the Indian government will also need to deal with users that are actively using these banned 59 apps in India.

And how will the Indian government address the issue around pre-installed or bundled apps that most handset makers provide in new phones.

Because among the banned 59 apps, many actually come pre-loaded on new handsets. Has the Indian government asked Samsung, Apple, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi and other companies to take down these banned apps from new handsets? That is unknow yet.

So these so of the technical challenges the Indian government faces in executing the imposed restriction of those 59 apps.

Interestingly, TikTok, UC Browser, Helo, Likee and Shareit are very apps popular among Indian users. For instance, TikTok had the most downloads of 323 million in India in 2019. Making the country a top market for TikTok, according to BusinessofApps data.

UC Browser holds the second slot after Google Chrome in India’s browser market with 12.59% share, according to StatCounter data.

Indian app makers have welcomed the Indian government’s move to ban these 59 apps.

“This is a very good step taken by the Govt of India and the IT Ministry of India, For a very long time Tik Tok has been spying on users and sending back the data to china. We are happy that this step has been finally taken,” said Sumit Ghosh, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer – Chinagri app.

Chinagri, is an Indian app and rival of Chinese app TikTok. “I thank and congratulate Narendra Modi sir. And we assure we would like to welcome all the users of TikTok to come and try our Chingari, which is a 100% India grown app, and made for the passionate Indians,” added Ghosh.

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