The Information and Technology Ministry on Wednesday banned the hugely popular gaming app PUBG Mobile and 117 other Chinese-linked mobile applications. The banned apps include Baidu, Baidu Express Edition, Tencent Watchlist, FaceU, WeChat Reading and Tencent Weiyun, besides PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite, according to an official statement. In July, the government had banned 47 apps, which were clones or variants of Chinese-linked 59 apps earlier banned in June.
The mobile apps banned by the government had “issues around security, surveillance and data privacy of Indian users,” IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
In a statement, the government said it blocked 118 mobile apps that are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, Defence of India, Security of State and Public Order”. The government said it had invoked powers under Section 69A of the IT Act, read with relevant provisions of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, to ban these apps. It said the decision was taken in the view of the emergent nature of threats.
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The government said the action against these mobile apps were taken after it received many complaints from various sources about stealing users’ data and surreptitiously transmitting them in an unauthorised manner to servers located outside India.
On June 29, the Centre had banned 59 apps citing the “emergent nature of threats” from mobile applications, including popular ones of Chinese origin such as TikTok, ShareIt, UCBrowser, Club Factory and CamScanner. It said the move was based on information that they were engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity”, defence, security and public order.
The bone of contention was data-sharing norms under a Chinese law that requires companies of Chinese origin to share data with that country’s intelligence agencies, irrespective of where they operate.
The move was then seen as a retaliatory step amid the tense border standoff in eastern Ladakh between India and China that led to 20 Indian Army personnel being killed on June 15 in Galwan Valley. State-owned telecom companies also moved to keep Chinese vendors out of their network upgradation tenders.
Reacting to the development, Sumit Ghosh, CEO, co-founder of short video sharing app Chingari, said the government should also look into companies that have Chinese investments and use Chinese tech in their products, and how they were safeguarding the data of Indian citizens.
“The government time and again has proved to support the Indian start-up ecosystem. This indeed would just motivate the Indian ecosystem, and we would see more Indian companies going global,” he said.