India Bans 47 Variants of Blocked Chinese Apps

After clamping down on 59 apps owned by Chinese companies four weeks ago, the Indian government issued last week an order to ban 47 variants or clones of these applications. The ban includes applications such as Helo Lite, Bigo Lite, CamScanner advanced among others.

Google and Apple Inc, which run popular mobile operating systems Android and iOS, respectively, were directed to remove these apps from their app stores, and they are expected to comply with the order soon after “due process is followed,” the official added.

Variants of TikTok are not in the list since the Bytedance-owned short video platform removed its apps after the first ban order was issued on June 29, the official said.

Late last month, India banned 59 Chinese apps citing threats to the country’s “sovereignty and security”. The apps included top social media platforms like TikTok, WeChat and Helo along with ShareIT, UC Browser and shopping app Club Factory.

On Monday, ET reported that the government has drawn up a list of 275 Chinese apps that it will examine for any violation of national security and user privacy signalling heightened scrutiny and the possibility of more Chinese internet companies being banned in the country.

The exhaustive list, reviewed by ET, includes gaming app PUBG backed by China’s most valuable internet major Tencent, Zili by phone maker Xiaomi, AliExpress by ecommerce giant Alibaba as well as apps like Resso and ULike from TikTok-owner ByteDance.

Official sources had said that reviews aimed at identifying more Chinese apps and their funding is underway. “Some of these apps have been red-flagged due to security reasons while others have been listed for violation of data sharing and privacy concerns. The government may ban all, some or none from the list, sources said.

ET had reported earlier that the government is looking at banning the variants of various banned apps. It had also issued strict directions to companies to make sure that none of the banned apps were directly or indirectly available for download in India by any means.

Sajai Singh, Partner at J Sagar Associates said that as Indian use of smartphones heads towards 442 million in 2022, with wide availability of cheap data plans, India is recognising the risk to personal data of its citizens. “In China, many large companies, including telecom, OTT and others, are closely linked with the state. This obviously raises red flags for nations when it comes to data of its citizens.” He added that time will only tell whether India was the first mover or the only country taking such a decision.

The government had evoked emergency powers under the Information Technology Act 2000 to ban these apps including provisions under Section 66A of the law. The government has since sent a long questionnaire to these companies giving them three weeks notice to respond. The deadline is expiring this week.

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