Chinese apps have once again become the cynosure of every eye as the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued fresh notices to 59 Chinese apps to permanently ban them in India. The affected apps include popular social media platforms TikTok, Baidu, Tencent’s WeChat, Alibaba’s UC Browser, and shopping app Club Factory. The notices were issued last week, making the ban permanent after the Indian government was not satisfied with the responses given by these companies.
Apps including TikTok, UC Browser, WeChat and 56 others had earlier been banned by the MeitY for being engaged in activities which are ‘prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, and security of the state and public order’. The past six months, starting from June 29, 2020, have seen 208 Chinese apps being banned by the government, and the companies being provided with an opportunity to explain their case regarding compliance to privacy and security requirements, as well as to respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by the ministry. Apparently not being satisfied with their responses, the government moved to permanently ban these apps in India. They were banned under section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
MeitY revealed that it had sent out notices to the banned apps prior to the ban last week, informing them about the eventual decision. In response, a TikTok spokesperson revealed, “We are evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate. TikTok was among the first companies to comply with the government of India directive issued on June 29, 2020. We continually strive to comply with local laws and regulations and do our best to address any concerns the government may have. Ensuring the privacy and security of all our users remains to be our topmost priority.”
July 2020 had witnessed the further ban of 47 more apps for allegedly operating as clones of the apps banned previously. On September 2, 118 more Chinese apps, including popular mobile game PUBG Mobile, had been banned, while November saw 43 more apps being banned. The main concern behind the ban was the illegal collection of user data and sending them to locations outside of India, threatening the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
The continued ban of Chinese apps shows the government’s zeal to protect the interests of its citizens along with the sovereignty and integrity of India on all fronts. This comes amid rising border tensions between India and China that have refused to deescalate despite rounds of negotiations at the military and diplomatic levels. It also re-affirmed the government’s stand that it would not tolerate aggression on the border or misusing the data of Indian users.
Banning Chinese apps is not only to protect the sovereignty of the country but also a move to boost and build a strong Indian app ecosystem, mirroring the policies taken by the Indian government soon after independence to let Indian industries grow without the threat of foreign giants. The government had introduced the AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge on July 4, 2020, giving further space to innovation, facilitate start-up communities and create top, world-class “Made in India” apps.