By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: Locked in a bitter turf war with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, India today banned 59 Chinese Apps, though the notification did not name the Asian country, saying they were working against national security and public order, amidst fears of these being used for electronic spying.
Notable among the banned Apps, being used by a large number of Indians on mobile phones and internet-based devices, are TikTok, UC Browser and CamScanner.
The official statement banning the Apps came from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology even as a build up of troops and weaponry by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army along the LAC in eastern parts of Union Territory of Ladakh.
The border face-off between the two armies has been on since early May when the PLA violated the LAC by pushing troops, pitching tents and erecting defence structures.
India’s attempts to convince China to uphold the sanctity of the LAC and restore status quo ante have met with deaf ears so far and even led to the June 15 deadly clashes in the Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives and around 40 PLA troops too suffered casualty.
As a counter balancing measure, India too has moved additional troops to the region and is keeping an eye on the PLA movements while trying to resolve the matter peacefully through diplomatic and military channels. The Chinese military mobilisation is being matched by the Indian Army along the LAC.
The move to ban the Apps has also come in the backdrop of reports of possible cyber attack originating from China on key Indian networks, apart from these Apps being used for spying on the Indian government and data theft of Indians.
“The India government has decided to disallow the usage of these Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices,” said a statement from Government of India.
The information technology ministry invoked its power under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000, read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, saying in view of the emergent nature of the threats, the government has decided to block 59 Apps, as they were found engaged in activities prejudicial to India’s sovereignty, integrity, defence, security of the state and public order.
Over the past few years, India has emerged as a leading innovator in technology and a primary market in the digital space but there have been concerns relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 1.3 billion Indians.
“It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of the country. The ministry 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 ministry’s statement said.
“The compilation of this data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of the country, is a matter of deep concern which requires emergency measures,” said the statement.
Besides data safety concerns expressed by the public to the ministry, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs had also recommended blocking of these malicious Apps, said officials.
Further, the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) too had also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order.
As several Members of Parliament, both outside and inside Parliament of India, too flagged the issue, there has been a strong demand among the general public to take action against the Apps that were harming India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of its citizens.
Here is the list of Chinese Apps banned in India: