Since 2020, Chinese apps have been having a hard time in the Indian market as many find themselves facing bans (by order of the Indian government). One can say it was a side-effect of the escalating border tensions between India and China at that time.
Since June 2020, 267 Chinese apps had been banned by the Indian Government for engaging in activities that harmed the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, and public order. More apps were banned last year, including TikTok, Weibo, WeChat, and AliExpress.
Now, 54 more apps of Chinese origin have been banned by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) due to security concerns. The order by the Ministry, which cited Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000 was acknowledged by Google. The company has already notified the affected developers and has temporarily blocked access to the apps that remained available on the Play Store in India.
The list of apps banned this time includes a name that few expected to be there – Garena’s Free Fire: Illuminate, the hugely popular battle royale shooter. It is one of the most popular alternatives to PUBG and has won several awards, including the award for the “Best Popular Vote Game” by Google Play Store in 2019 (and the most downloaded mobile game globally in the same year). Backed by Tencent and Sea, 40 million out of its 75 million global monthly active users in January came from India, data by App Annie shows.
The list also includes names such as Beauty Camera: Sweet Selfie HD, Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera, Equalizer & Bass Booster, CamCard for SalesForce Ent, Isoland 2: Ashes of Time Lite, Viva Video Editor, Tencent Xriver, Onmyoji Chess, Onmyoji Arena, AppLock, and Dual Space Lite. These apps, including those belonging to Chinese behemoths such as Tencent and Alibaba, are clones or rebrands of those which have already been banned for operating in the Indian markets since 2020.
These apps, it seems obtain various critical permissions and collect sensitive user data, which are then used and sent to servers located in other countries.