India has banned 118 more Chinese apps, including popular multiplayer game PUBG and search engine Baidu, citing them to be security threats. The government invoked its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act and relevant provisions under IT Rules 2009 to block these apps, said the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in a statement on Wednesday.
MeitY said it had received complaints regarding the misuse of apps available on Android and iOS for “stealing and surreptitiously” transmitting users’ data to servers that were located outside India.
“Compilation of such data, and its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of deep and immediate concern that requires emergency measures,” the ministry added.Further, the government said the move would safeguard the interests of millions of Indian mobile and internet users. “The decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security, and sovereignty of the Indian cyberspace.”
Tencent-backed PUBG is a popular gaming app with over 40 million active users in India. It is classified as one of the two unicorn mobile games in India by AppAnnie. The other Chinese-origin apps to have been banned include Alipay, Ludo All Star, WeChat reading and Super Clean, among others.
The development follows fresh tensions between India and China earlier this week, with hundreds of soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossing over to the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — south of the Pangong Tso Lake. In June, India had banned 59 Chinese apps following a similar stand-off at Galwan Valley that resulted in the killing of 20 Indian soldiers.
“This is more of a diplomatic and political move, than a regulatory one. It is an immediate reaction to the India-China tensions at the border,” said Salman Waris, managing partner at specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitor.
“Some of these apps are, for the long term, challenging government orders in courts while for others, there could be possible acquisitions by Indian firms. The same is possible for PUBG and similar apps. I doubt this would have a big business impact on companies like WeChat, Baidu, and Tencent,” he added.
“The government has, time and again, proved its support to the Indian start-up ecosystem. This will indeed motivate the Indian ecosystem, and we will see more Indian firms going global,” said Sumit Ghosh, co-founder and CEO of short video app Chingari, in response to the latest move.
“In addition, the government should look into companies that have (received) Chinese investments and use Chinese technology, and how they are safeguarding data of Indian citizens.”