India has banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the popular SHAREit, TikTok, UC Browser, and SHEIN, citing them to be a security threat. The government invoked its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act and relevant provisions under IT Rules 2009 to block these apps, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said on Monday.
The move did not come as a surprise as it comes in the backdrop of stand-off along the Line of Actual control in Ladakh with Chinese troops. Other popular apps on the ban list include Club Factory, Helo, and CamScanner. The ministry said it had received complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps available on the Android and iOS platforms “for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data” in an unauthorised manner to servers located outside India. The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the Home Ministry, who had had earlier sent an exhaustive recommendation on the apps to be blocked, were consulted on this issue, the MeitY statement said.
“The government believes these are data-mining apps that compromise the user’s data and national security,” said Salman Waris, managing partner at New Delhi-based specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors. “The next move could be the Department of Telecom asking internet service providers to block IP addresses and access to these apps.”
Waris said the sentiment could hamper the flow of Chinese capital into Indian start-ups. The government had in April amended the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, saying that an entity of a country, which shared a land border with India, can only invest through the government route.
Blaise Fernandes, director, Gateway House, said there were essentially four types of Chinese apps in India — economic, service oriented, vanity, and strategic. “The Digital India story is globally tracked. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are part of the digital ‘Silk Route’ of China. The ban of the 59 Chinese apps in India will negatively impact the valuations of these apps and their respective promoters,” Fernandes said. The official referred to the upcoming IPO of TikTok and said: “Almost 30 per cent of its user base comes from India. This (ban) will impact TikTok’s valuations negatively.”
However, most home-grown start-ups and Confederation of All India Traders welcomed the move. The CAIT said it was a “big support” to its “Boycott Chinese Goods” campaign. Berges Malu, director (public policy) at ShareChat, a social media start-up, said: “This is a welcome move against platforms that have had serious privacy, cyber-security and national security risks.”