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Friday, June 9, 2023

59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, banned by Bharat

The Government of Bharat has decided to block and ban 59 Chinese mobile apps as they were considered prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity, defence, security of state and public order of Bharat.

In a press release, Ministry of Electronics & IT said –

“The Ministry of Information Technology, 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 ( see Appendix) since in view of information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.

Over the last few years, India has emerged as a leading innovator when it comes to technological advancements and a primary market in the digital space.

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 Ministry of Information Technology 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 Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps. This Ministry has also received many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to operation of certain apps. 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.

On the basis of these and upon receiving of recent credible inputs that such Apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices. These apps are listed in the attached appendix.

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.”

List of Chinese apps banned by Government of Bharat

There have been increasing calls for restricting access of Chinese apps like Tik Tok and telecom equipment manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE for some time now, in light of their data privacy & national security concerns. While such calls have emerged at various times over the last 15 years, the Government has now hardened its stance after the Chinese aggression and treachery at Galwan valley where 20 Bharatiya soldiers and around 43 Chinese troops were killed in a clash earlier this month.

In 2017, the Union Home Ministry formed an advisory with inputs from intelligence agencies like the R&AW and NTRO asking all security personnel to immediately uninstall over 40 Chinese apps and format their smartphones.

Last July, after several lawmakers in Bharat alleged TikTok, a short-form video app created by Chinese company ByteDance, was illegally sharing user data with the Communist Chinese government, the app began storing data locally. Several branches of the US military and government agencies have already banned TikTok over cybersecurity fears.

TikTok has also been under fire in Bharat for promoting sexual grooming and predation, acid attacks and other deviant behavior, and for hooking millions of youths into a intellect and soul-destroying pursuit of online celebrity and ‘influencer’ status through short videos. The tragic side-effects of such apps were on display in the recent suicide of a 16-year-old Tik Tok ‘star’ in Delhi. A flood of Chinese dating, live streaming and gaming apps have also been found to be exploiting Bharatiya consumers using AI bots and other unethical practices.

Since 2005, Bharat’s home ministry has warned many times that foreign telecom equipment vendors, especially Chinese, may install spyware and malware that could monitor voice and data traffic and bring down networks. Deals between Bharatiya mobile phone operators and Chinese telecom equipment companies like Huawei and ZTE have been blocked or come under scrutiny at different times in the last decade.

After the Galwan clash, the Government has also toughened its stance over the participation of Huawei and ZTE in 5G trials, by empowering a committee led by Union Ministry of Home Affairs to take the final call on the matter.

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