New Delhi: The government has banned 59 applications, including the popular China-based small video sharing service, TikTok, scanning app CamScanner and Mi Video by smartphone maker, Xiaomi, citing it has found these apps to be engaging in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India”. The government also said these applications threaten defence of the country, security of the state and public order.
The decision to ban such a large number of apps comes at a time when relations between India and China have turned extremely bitter and amid growing anti-China sentiments since the violent standoff of 15 June between the two countries, which killed 20 Indian soldiers, including an Army colonel.
TikTok has over 200 million users in India and sees the country as one of its most important markets after China. In China, the app operates on a different name, and is called Douyin.
“There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The IT ministry said it has received several complaints from various sources on misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms that steal and “surreptitiously” transmit users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers located outside the country.
“The decision to ban these apps 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,” the ministry said.
“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 ministry said.
TikTok, which is the biggest name on the government’s list, was recently found accessing user data on Apple’s iPhones. The app accessed the phone’s clipboard, which holds text a user copies from elsewhere, and can be used by apps to glean more insights on a user. A new feature on Apple’s iOS 14 brought the issue to light and TikTok said, in a statement, that it would stop doing so. Over 50 other apps, including some from reputed news outlets have also been found to have similar features due to iOS 14.
Further, Mi Video and Mi Community are apps run by Xiaomi, which is the top smartphone seller in the country. Xiaomi bundles these apps on its smartphones. While Mi Video is meant to be a video aggregation platform, Mi Community Xiaomi users interact with each other and also ask questions about the company’s products.
Another app falling in the MeitY’s list is CamScanner, which is a popular solution for scanning documents in mobile phones. The app had been banned from Google’s Play Store in the second half of 2019 after researchers from cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky, found malware embedded in it. Google allowed the app back on its Store after changes were made to its code.