Late yesterday, India banned as many as 59 popular smartphone apps for Android smartphones as well as the Apple iPhone. The notification issued by The Ministry of Information Technology of the Government of India derived powers under the 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 citing the concerns about the security, integrity and defense of India. The apps that now stand banned in India, across the Google Android ecosystem and the Apple iPhone as well as the iPad platforms now include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community. As we do a status check this morning on some of the popular apps in this list, we notice that some are available on the Google Play Store for Android phones and the App Store for the Apple iPhone, yet some app listings have been removed.
A quick search for the incredibly popular TikTok on the Google Play Store for Android and the Apple App Store for the iPhone doesn’t reveal favorable results for fans and users. The app, developed by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has been taken down, for the time being on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Incidentally, another social media app Helo is also presently unavailable on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
TikTok has been taken down, for the time being on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store
It is expected that while app listings for all 59 apps on the list issued by the Government of India will be taken down from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store at some point. For the millions of users who may also have these installed on their Android phones and iPhones, there will be checks at the Internet service provider (ISP) and mobile service provider stage to ensure that traffic to and from these apps is blocked on the network, thereby rendering them in-operational. It is expected that all mobile service providers will block these apps on the 3G/4G networks while all broadband companies will enable these filters on wired and wireless broadband options.
The purge on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store may take some time though. As of the time of writing this, apps including Likee, Vigo Video, WeChat, CamScanner and UC Browser are still available for download on both Android and iOS platforms.
This announcement on the ban on 59 popular smartphone apps, owned by Chinese tech companies, comes at a time when tensions between India and China are at an all-time high, after the military skirmishes earlier this month. There have been suspicions that the apps developed and or owned by Chinese companies and developers collect user data from their phones without their permissions and transmit it back to the owners.
or the millions of users who may also have these installed on their Android phones and iPhones, there will be checks at the Internet service provider (ISP) and mobile service provider stage to ensure that traffic to and from these apps is blocked on the network
“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,” says the Ministry of Electronics and IT in an official statement.
This move could also have a cascading effect, as more countries could end up banning these apps in the coming days. There has been a global conversation over the past few months about the possible backdoors in Chinese company Huawei’s 5G mobile network infrastructure allowing the company or even the Chinese government to snoop in on user data. Many countries have either banned Huawei’s 5G network hardware altogether or are reluctant to use it.
This ban on popular Chinese-owned apps, including social networks such as TikTok, could have a longer-term impact on the company valuations as well, after a large chunk of their user base has been effectively shut out. At this time, it is not clear how long the ban will be in place but there are multiple recommendations in place on how to block these potentially malicious apps from being used on internet networks within India.
This announcement on the ban on 59 popular smartphone apps, owned by Chinese tech companies, comes at a time when tensions between India and China are at an all-time high