The Indian government has banned 118 Chinese-owned smartphone apps, including the Tencent-owned popular game PUBG Mobile and search engine Baidu, alleging that the apps engaged in activities which are a threat to national security just days after Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a face-off in the disputed Himalayan region.
The ban, issued by India’s Ministry of Electronics & IT, also includes Ant Finacial’s Alipay, Alibaba’s Taobao and more than a hundred other apps including games, web browsers, messaging, e-commerce, utility apps.
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs have sent an “exhaustive recommendation” for blocking these “malicious apps”, the IT Ministry said in a press statement.
The Indian government’s statement claims that it had received many reports about some of the apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” adding that the data is mined and profiled by “elements hostile to national security and defence of India.”
While the statement doesn’t explicitly mention China, all the apps banned are owned or operated by companies in China.
The two nuclear-armed Asian neighbors have seen an escalation in tension at their disputed border regions where both armies were involved in a recent standoff.
In June, following a deadly clash between India and China’s troops, the Indian government had banned 59 Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and WeChat, two apps that have also been targeted by the Trump administration over their alleged sharing of sensitive user data with Chinese authorities.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a traders collective which had been pushing for a ban on Chinese products, has welcomed the ban telling Indian tech news site MediaNama that the move was “a major milestone step against misdeeds of China and will certainly boost the morale of the country.” The group added that the banning of these apps was necessary as they were “always a threat” to the country’s safety, security and sovereignty.
The game PUBG Mobile is the most popular app on the ban list, and its removal could create an opening for locally developed games to step up in its place. “Suddenly Prime Minister Modi’s talking up of support for Make In India games makes a lot more sense” Rishi Alwani, Editor of The Mako Reactor, a site that covers the Indian games market told Forbes, pointing to a recent radio broadcast by the Indian Prime Minister that called for more indigenous video games. While the game is popular in India, Alwani had previously reported that India’s PUBG Mobile market revenue was “nowhere as close to being as lucrative for Tencent as it is in other markets”
The Trump administration, which has cracked down on popular Chinese-owned apps in the U.S. including TikTok and WeChat, has praised India’s action on the issue. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applauded India’s previous ban order, stating that the move would “boost India’s integrity and national security.” While announcing his executive order banning U.S. transactions with WeChat and TikTok in August, Trump cited India’s ban to build the case for his actions. “The Government of India recently banned the use of TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications throughout the country…they were stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” Trump had said.
The Indian state of Gujarat had previously banned PUBG over fears of violence and addictiveness and that ban. The ban led to arrests of several young men for simply playing the game on their phones.
A Video Game Went Viral Across India. Then Police Started Arresting Its Young Players (BuzzFeed News)
I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and
I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018. Have a news tip? DMs are open on Twitter @SiladityaRay or drop me an email at [email protected]
World news – CA – India Bans 118 More Chinese-Owned Apps, Days After Border Clash Between Both Armies