India on Wednesday banned 118 more mobile apps with Chinese links, including popular game PUBG, citing data privacy concerns and a threat to national security.
This takes the total count of Chinese-linked mobile apps banned by India to 224.
The 118 apps banned on Wednesday include Baidu, Baidu Express Edition, Alipay, Tencent Watchlist, FaceU, WeChat reading, Government WeChat, Tencent Weiyun, APUS Launcher Pro, APUS Security, Cut Cut, ShareSave by Xiaomi, and CamCard, besides PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite, according to an official release.
“The Government blocks 118 mobile apps which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order,” the statement said.
The move comes amid fresh border tensions with China in Ladakh.
The statement cited numerous complaints received by the IT Ministry from various sources, including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data to servers outside India.
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the release said.
Earlier on June 29, the government had banned 59 Chinese apps, including hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.
That ban, applicable on apps such as WeChat and Bigo Live, had come in the backdrop of a stand-off along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh with Chinese troops.
The June ban was followed by blocking of 47 more Chinese apps that were clones and variants of the ones banned earlier.
On Wednesday, the government said the Electronics and IT Ministry, invoking its powers under section 69A of the Information Technology Act along with relevant rules and in view of the emergent nature of threats, has decided to block the 118 mobile apps.
These apps have been blocked “in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”, it said.
“The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps. Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India,” the statement said.
There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as citizens’ privacy, it added.
“On the basis of these and upon receiving of recent credible inputs that information posted, permissions sought, functionality embedded as well as data harvesting practices of above-stated apps raise serious concerns that these apps collect and share data in a surreptitious manner and compromise personal data and information of users that can have a severe threat to the security of the State,” the statement said.
The latest list also includes mobile applications such as Learn Chinese AI, Hi Meitu, VPN for TikTok, Beauty Camera Plus, along with a host of gaming apps.
The move to ban the apps will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users, the statement said, adding the decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.
“In the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India and security of the State and using the sovereign powers, the Government of India has decided to block the usage of certain apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices,” it said.
Welcoming the ban, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said the move is “a major milestone step against misdeeds of China and will certainly boost the morale of the country.”
CAIT National President B C Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said banning more Chinese apps was necessary as they “were always a threat to country’s safety, security and sovereignty as also for the protection of individual data these apps were accruing through their usages.”
Also, “Apps like PUBG were spoiling the next generation as more and more people of India were consuming their more time on PUBG and other apps,” they were quoted as saying in a CAIT press statement.