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Security Issues: Chinese apps blocked as threats to sovereignty

Chinese apps blocked as threats to sovereignty

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Chinese apps blocked as threats to sovereignty
List of Chinese apps blocked as threats to sovereignty

In News:

  • Few days ago, Indian Government  banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including popular ones like TikTok, CamScanner etc.
  • The notification is expected to be followed by instructions to Internet service providers to block these apps.

Reasons for Banning Chinese Mobile Apps:

  1. Threat to Safety & Sovereignty of India:
    • The Government of India (GoI) has reasoned that this is a move to protect the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace, as the apps are engaged in activities prejudicial to integrity of India.
    • The GoI has also been receiving complaints against these apps for stealing and sneakily transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.
    • Separately, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre in the home ministry also recommended that the Apps should be blocked because of cyber safety concerns.
    • The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) found that data was flowing to China even though some of the entities whose Apps have been blocked were notionally located in the US or other countries like Singapore.
  2. Geopolitical Move:
    • However, this is also being seen as geopolitical move to put pressure on China amid the tense standoff in Ladakh. 
    • Banning of these apps is a relatively easy but significant step as they have a disproportionately large presence in the mass consumer segment.
    • Some apps on the banned list are very popular in India, especially TikTok, which has over 100 million active users in the country.
    • Thus, banning 59 Chinese mobile apps is both a statement of intent and a strong signal to Chinese businesses in India, and to China itself.
  3. Legal Basis of Government’s Decision:
    • The ban has been enforced under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which pertains to “power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource.”
    • “In the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India” is one of the grounds in Section 69 of the IT Act, 2000 for blocking access to any such IT related information.

Impact of the Government’s Decision:

  • Signal to China: These banned apps have a huge presence in Indian market and this move by the government is a strong signal to China that the recent Chinese aggression will have deep impact on bilateral relations.
  • Economic Repercussions for China and India
    1. For China: With India being the largest market for many of these apps, their banning in India will have significant impact on their valuations and revenue/profits of those companies from China or with heavy Chinese links.
    2. For India:
      • For many Indian content creators on these platforms, this is their only source of income, and they will lose out.
      • Also, many of these apps have offices and employees in India, and a few thousand jobs could be at stake.
      • However, this may not hurt India’s consumer market given the availability of alternative apps.
  • Global Implications:
    1. This move could be a blow to China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions by eroding the valuation of the companies.
    2. It could also lead to more countries following India’s cue and acting against these apps.

Execution of the Ban Order will not be easy:

  • As per the digital experts, executing this ban can be challenging.
  • It would require all the internet service providers to blacklist every host name and domain name associated with these apps.
  • Google and Apple will need to remove the official version of these apps from their stores.
  • Users may start using unofficial versions of the same apps which entail higher security concerns.

Revision Tit-Bit:

  • In April, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) made it mandatory for foreign direct investment (FDI) from neighbouring countries to take prior government approval.
  • This was aimed at curbing opportunistic takeovers/ acquisitions of Indian companies during times of the Covid-19 pandemic when valuations were at new lows.

Also Read: National Concerns: With Vande flights facing curbs, India considers ‘travel bubbles’

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