The Ladakh standoff has just upended India’s entire tech ecosystem.
In a massive move, the Indian government has banned 59 Chinese apps. “The Ministry of Information Technology, invoking it’s power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 59 apps since in view of information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” said a press release from the Ministry of Information Technology. ” It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country. The Ministry of Information Technology 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 unauthorized manner to servers which have locations 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 press release added.
The list of apps includes companies like social media apps like TikTok, Helo and Bigo Live, browsers like UC Browser, news apps like NewsDog, and other popular apps like ShareIt. Xiaomi’s video calling app has also been banned, as have video calling apps of other Chinese phone companies.
“The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps,” the press release said. “This Ministry has also received many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to operation of certain apps. The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues. Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India. There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens. On the basis of these and upon receiving of recent credible inputs that such Apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices. These apps are listed in the attached appendix. This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace, it added.
This move is a bombshell for India’s tech space. TikTok had 120 million users in India, who will no longer be able to use the app. It’ll impact the banned companies — 30 percent of TikTok’s users were from India, and the ban means that TikTok has lost a large percentage of its userbase overnight. The move also gives an opportunity for Indian companies to build replacements — some of these banned apps were hugely popular, and Indian entrepreneurs would be itching to build replacements. In 2016, the demonetization exercise had provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for payment companies — this move might just create a similar watershed moment for consumer apps in India.