India on Monday banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.
The ban, which comes in the backdrop of current stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh with Chinese troops, also includes WeChat and Bigo Live.
The list of apps that have been banned also include Helo, Likee, Cam Scanner, Vigo Video, Mi Video Call, Xiaomi, Clash of Kings as well as e-commerce platforms Club Factory and Shein. This marks the largest sweep against the Chinese technology companies.
The Information Technology Ministry in a statement said it 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 unauthorised 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 statement said.
The IT Ministry said it has invoked its power under section 69A of the IT Act and rules, and has decided to block 59 apps in view of information available that they are "engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order".
The 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", it added.
The list included prominent names like TikTok (which has over 200 million users in India), SHAREit, WeChat, UC Browser, Helo, Likee and Cam Scanner, among others.
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps, the statement said, adding that 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 citizens. Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside Parliament.
"On the basis of these and upon receiving 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," it added.
Comments from these companies could not be immediately obtained.
"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 statement said.
Over 2015-19, Chinese investors including Alibaba, Tencent, TR Capital and Hillhouse Capital, have invested over USD 5.5 billion in Indian startups, according to Venture Intelligence that tracks private equity, venture capital, M&A transactions and valuations, in India.
Union Minister of Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said the move was taken to ensure the country’s integrity and protect data and privacy of Indians.
For safety, security, defence, sovereignty & integrity of India and to protect data & privacy of people of India the Government has banned 59 mobile apps. Jai Hind! 🇮🇳 — Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) June 29, 2020
Congress leader Ahmed Patel also welcomed the decision, adding that the government has to take more substantial measures in light of the Chinese intrusion and unprovoked attack on Indian Army.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said the ban will be a big support to its 'Boycott Chinese Goods' campaign.
"This huge unprecedented step will go a long way in strengthening the 'Boycott China' campaign of CAIT. Boycott China movement is now well and truly a national reality and seven crore traders of India stands in solidarity with the Union Government," CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said in a statement.
ShareChat Director Public Policy Berges Malu also welcomed the move. "This is a welcome move from the government against platforms that have had serious privacy, cyber security and national security risks. We expect the government to continue their support for the Indian startup ecosystem," he said.
The full list of banned apps is as follows:
TikTok, Shareit, Kwai, UC Browser, Baidu map, Shein, Clash of Kings, DU battery saver, Helo, Likee, YouCam makeup, Mi Community, CM Browser, Virus Cleaner, APUS Browser, ROMWE, Club Factory, Newsdog, Beauty Plus, WeChat, UC News, QQ Mail, Weibo, Xender, QQ Music, QQ Newsfeed, Bigo Live, SelfieCity, Mail Master, Parallel Space, Mi Video Call – Xiaomi, WeSync, ES File Explorer, Viva Video – QU Video Inc, Meitu, Vigo Video, New Video Status, DU Recorder, Vault- Hide, Cache Cleaner DU App studio, DU Cleaner, DU Browser, Hago Play With New Friends, Cam Scanner, Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile, Wonder Camera, Photo Wonder, QQ Player, We Meet, Sweet Selfie, Baidu Translate, Vmate, QQ International, QQ Security Center, QQ Launcher, U Video, V fly Status Video, Mobile Legends, DU Privacy.
(With inputs from PTI)