Aarushi Relan 15 August, 2020 10:28 pm IST: BANNING CHINESE APPS
The media across the globe applauded India for banning Chinese Apps including TikTok, Helo, Shein, Cam Scanner, Shareit, UC Browser, WeChat, Club Factory etc. The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Technology (MeIT) banned 59 Chinese mobile applications to counter the threat posed by these applications to the country’s ‘sovereignty and security’, as stated in a press release.
The interim order has been implemented on a wide category of apps which includes e-commerce apps, utility apps, video content apps, news apps, image and document scanner apps and online shopping apps. The Government press release did not expressly mention to ban ‘Chinese Apps’, but all the apps listed appear to be wholly owned by the Chinese companies. In order to implement the ban, the Department of Telecommunications has already issued guidelines and directions to internet service providers to block the access of the apps immediately.
The decision to implement the ban of these apps is due to border tension between India and China. As stated by the India’s Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Mr. Ravi Prasad, the ban would be a ‘digital strike’ against China. Earlier, in April during this year, the Indian Government imposed a condition that investments into Indian Companies from countries which share a ‘land border with India’ shall only be made with the Government’s approval. Press reports, however, suggest that the MeIT was generally concerned about the ‘Level of Access’ of an Indian user’s personal data to Chinese firms and companies. Some of the scholars and academicians have attributed their concern towards the National Intelligence Law of China which allows the Chinese Government to require the data and intelligence services as obtained by the Chinese companies.
REGULATORY BASIS AND LAW INVOLVED FOR THE BAN
The ban has been implemented under the Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 read with the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009. As stated in the provisions, the Government can ban public access to any sort of knowledge or information generated, transmitted, received or stored through any computer resource where it has been regarded as ‘satisfied’ than ‘necessary or expedient’ to do so in interest of sovereignty, integrity, defence or security of India.
The Ministry of Information and Technology had stated that it has received various complaints from sources including reports with regard to misuse of some mobile applications for ‘stealing and surreptitiously transmitting’ user’s data in an unauthorized manner from its servers which have locations outside India. Due to this, it has been considered a matter of urgent and deep concern which is required to be made on an emergency basis.
HOW WILL THE BAN BE ENFORCED?
This ban shall be notified to Internet Service providers which shall block the apps and the users will be likely to see a message stating ‘Access to the app has been restricted on the request of the Government’. However, the most severe impact of the ban shall be foreseeable in apps like TikTok that need a live feed to serve any purpose. However, prior users might be able to continue using the app through different VPN Address. Other apps shall be blocked on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
REASONS AND THE IMPACT OF THE BAN
The Government’s order has not been issued in the public domain, but the government is certain that the decision has been taken to ensure the ‘safety and sovereignty of Indian Cyber Space’ and to safeguard the interest of Indian mobile users. The primary reasons behind the ban have been identified in the following points:
- The Apps have been engaged in such activities which are derogatory to sovereignty, public order, security, integrity and defence of Indian citizens.
- There have been complaints from various different sources with regard to stealing of unauthorized data.
- The Apps were compiling the data of individuals which is followed by mining and profiling by elements which are hostile to national security and defence of India.
- The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs has sent an exhaustive recommendation to the central government, in order to block these ‘malicious apps’.
- The Computer Emergency Response Team has also received many complaints and recommendations from their citizens regarding the security of data and breach of privacy causing a grave impact on public order.
Apps like TikTok, Like, Helo etc. are extremely popular with Indian Audience and have over 100 million active users in the country. Moreover, these platforms are a major source of income for various content contributors. Many of these apps have their offices and employees in India with almost thousands of job at stake with the app ban. Earlier, the Chinese App TikTok was banned in India on an order issued by Madras High Court for a couple of days, but it came back after the court vacated the ban. However, contrary to the earlier ban, this time it is in context with national security and could be a wake-up call to big multi-national Chinese companies to stop promoting their apps in India.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Also Read: How to File a Consumer Complaint in India?
The Indian Government has repeatedly expressed the concern with regard to data privacy and protection to the Indian users. To make a change with regard to violation of personal data, The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 has proposed a critical concern regarding personal data of citizens stored inside India. However, these apps store the personal information of users outside India which has become a concern of interim importance to the Government. The banned apps have been given an opportunity to be heard and explain whether their compliance has been derogatory with privacy and security of the country. TikTok has denied the allegations and has challenged the above order issued by the Government in the court.
China has strongly condemned the ban and has discriminatorily aimed at certain Chinese Apps as quite ambiguous or far-fetched, against the fair and transparent procedure and which abuse national security expectations. The United States of America has come out in support of India’s move and stated it as a ‘clean-app approach’ which shall boast the sovereignty, integrity and national security of the country. However, there has been no specific action from China in relation to the ban and we have still to witness how the ‘digital strike’ shall be addressed with the governments of the two countries and its people.
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