In the wake of the face-off with Chinese forces on the India-China border in Ladakh, and a violent clash on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, the Indian government on June 29 banned 59 apps of Chinese origin, citing data security and national sovereignty concerns. These include popular ones such as TikTok, SHAREIt, UC Browser, CamScanner, Helo, Weibo, WeChat and Club Factory. And they are try to steal our details from their country originated app which we are using. Please don’t doubt on our patriotism. We can do everything or anything for our country. Do not dare to look at our country.

Why were the Chinese apps banned?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a press release asserted that it had 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 Ministry said it had decided to block the 59 apps to safeguard the “sovereignty and integrity of India”, invoking powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.

The government also said that several citizens had reportedly raised concerns in representations to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) regarding security of data and loss of privacy in using these apps. In addition, the Ministry said it had also received “exhaustive recommendations” from the Home Ministry’s Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre.

And while the government did not name China openly in its action against the apps, public comments by officials including Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology and Law and Justice — he asserted that the ‘digital strike’ was done “for safety, security, defence, sovereignty & integrity of India and to protect data & privacy of people of India” — signalled that it was aimed at Chinese economic interests.

How large is the user base in India for these banned apps?

Estimates by Sensor Tower show the video-sharing social networking app, TikTok, for instance, has seen about 611 million downloads in India over the app’s lifetime, while estimates of active users vary with the highest pegged at 200 million. According to media reports, file-sharing tool SHAREIt has about 400 million users. Statcounter places the Alibaba-owned UC Browser second in India market share at 10.19%, after Google Chrome (78.2%). Other reports estimate its user base at 130 million.

How will users be affected?

Installed apps may continue to exist on mobile devices. But now that the latest versions of the apps have been removed from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, users will not be able to access updated versions in future. If a notice goes out to internet service providers asking that data flow from these apps be halted, that could impact the functioning of existing, installed apps.

How does the ban affect Chinese app providers?

The potential loss of advertising revenue impacts app-makers. Tik Tok’s parent ByteDance Ltd. recorded a doubling of global revenue to $17 billion in 2019, over the previous year, with $3 billion in profit.

Its India business may have yielded only $5.8 million in revenue for the year ended March 2019, but with quicker user adoption more recently, the stakes seem to be getting higher. When TikTok was banned briefly in India last year on the grounds that it reportedly promoted pornography, the company had told a local court that it was losing roughly $15 million a month due to the ban, according to a Reuters report. The app had subsequently been permitted to operate.

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