As many as 296 mobile apps have been blocked by the government since 2014 in the interest of the country's sovereignty, security, and public order, Union minister Sanjay Dhotre told Rajya Sabha on Thursday. "A total of 296 mobile applications have been blocked by government since 2014, under the provisions of section 69A of IT Act 2000 and its rules… in the interest of sovereignty & integrity of India, security of the State and public order," Dhotre, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said in a written reply.
The minister also said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) — the requesting agency for blocking of these apps under section 69A of the IT Act — had received "several reports about misuse of some Chinese mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms". He said several reports had been received about some of these apps being misused for "… for stealing and transmitting user data such as financial data, permission for accessing of all possible data available in device, etc and real-time activity surreptitiously to servers located outside India".
"This has serious repercussions in light of national security and current tense border situation," he noted. Usage of these apps by a large number of people in India enables compilation of huge data that can be collated, analysed, profiled and mined by "elements who are hostile to the sovereignty and integrity of India and for activities detrimental to national security, security of India, defence of India as well as public order, apart from being detrimental to the interest of the general public, Dhotre said.
In response to a separate query, the minister said that with increasing number of internet users, mobile apps and new evolving technology, the practice of collection of personal data by such apps and websites is also increasing. He also said the government has already moved the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in Parliament and it is presently under the consideration of the Joint Parliamentary Committee formed by Lok Sabha.
The Bill provides for safeguards of privacy and interests of the Indian citizens, Dhotre said. Social media platforms, including WhatsApp and Facebook, are intermediaries as defined in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.
Dhotre noted that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is finalising draft Intermediaries Guidelines Rules. "The draft Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2018 were put up for public consultation. All the suggestions and comments received on the proposed draft rules were also published on Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology website in February, 2019," he said.