In a press release, the government of India said that they banned 59 apps in view of inputs received from credible sources that they “engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. Many popular apps including the Chinese social media platform TikTok are placed in the list. Some notable names in the list are We-Chat, Helo, Mi Community, Weibo, Mi Video Call, and Club Factory.
The government said that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been receiving complaints regarding some of the apps available on iOS and Android platforms. The complaints from trusted sources raised concerns about certain mobile applications stealing the user data and transmitting them to some dubious servers outside the country. The government decided to take stringent actions to eliminate any chances of such action which puts the data security and privacy of 1300 million Indians at stake.
“The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues. Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India. There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens,” the press release stated.
“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.”
Concerns arise that this could bring more damage to China and the technology companies if more countries follow this cue and take such measures citing security issues.
According to The Economic Times, the Government of India’s action could put China’s ambitious project ‘Digital Silk Route’ in a limbo. The project focuses on building internet infrastructure in union with the countries along the historic Silk Route. The project emphasises on deepening space cooperation between the partisans. The spokespeople for ByteDance (the group that owns the digital platforms like Helo and TikTok) and Alibaba (owner of UC Browser) restrained from commenting on this.
Markets Wide Open for Local Technology
While the move raises concerns among Chinese tech companies, their Indian counterparts are welcoming the move. The platforms like InMobi and ShareChat shared that this would open up the Indian market to them. Bolo Indya, TikTok’s rival told The Economic Times, “We welcome the decision as we resonate the concerns raised by the government. This is the opportunity for Bolo Indya and other Indian apps to deliver value, keeping Indian culture and data security at the highest priority”.
“From a tactical perspective, it puts enormous economic pressure because these apps were heavily reliant on Indian markets. From a legal perspective, it is sound because grounds like national security are difficult to challenge in a court of law,” Santosh Pai added. He is a partner at Link Legal, a legal services firm that tracks Chinese investment in India.