New Delhi, June 29 (HT): In a huge move, the Indian central government on Monday decided to ban 59 mobile applications linked to China on grounds of national security.
Prime Minister will be addressing the nation on Tuesday at 4 pm. IST.
A formal order, asking phone companies to block the applications, was issued after weeks of discussions that started much before the Ladakh border standoff with China.
But government officials told Hindustan Times that the deliberations were fast-tracked after June 15 violent scrap between soldiers at Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who had extended his complete support to the move to block the China-linked applications, signed off on Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla’s recommendation on Saturday.
Since the government had decided against just issuing an advisory cautioning people about the risks associated with these applications, the formal orders were issued by the IT ministry.
A statement by the information technology ministry said a decision had been taken to block 59 applications “since in view of the information available, they are engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
The applications include popular short-video app TikTok, and other utility and content apps such as UC browser, Xender, SHAREit and Clean-master.
The 59 apps deleted are:
1.TikTok 2.Shareit 3.Kwai 4.UC Browser 5.Baidu map 6.Shein 7.Clash of Kings 8.DU battery saver 9.Helo 10.Likee 11.YouCam makeup 12.Mi Community 13.CM Browers 14.Virus Cleaner 15.APUS Browser 16.ROMWE 17.Club Factory 18.Newsdog 19.Beutry Plus 20.WeChat 21.UC News 22.QQ Mail 23.Weibo 24.Xender 25.QQ Music 26.QQ Newsfeed 27.Bigo Live 28.SelfieCity 29.Mail Master 30.Parallel Space 31.Mi Video Call – Xiaomi 32.WeSync 33.ES File Explorer 34.Viva Video – QU Video Inc 35.Meitu 36.Vigo Video 37.New Video Status 38.DU Recorder 39.Vault- Hide 40.Cache Cleaner DU App studio 41.DU Cleaner 42.DU Browser 43.Hago Play With New Friends 44.Cam Scanner 45.Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile 46.Wonder Camera 47.Photo Wonder 48.QQ Player 49.We Meet 50.Sweet Selfie 51.Baidu Translate 52.Vmate 53.QQ International 54.QQ Security Center 55.QQ Launcher 56.U Video 57.V fly Status Video 58.Mobile Legends 59.DU Privacy
Explaining the decision, the IT ministry pointed to the 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. 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,” said the IT ministry statement.
Indian intelligence agencies had been pushing for restrictions on the mobile applications on grounds that the apps were designed to extract data and park them outside the country where they could be used to intrude into the privacy of citizens.
Chinese companies have long been suspected of building backdoors in their hardware and software, one reason why many governments across the world have been uneasy at the prospect of deploying Chinese-made 5G networking equipment.
Robert O’Brien, the National Security Adviser in the Trump administration, had recently detailed how China-linked companies acted as an arm of Beijing’s communist party and tried to “control thoughts” to serve the party’s interests.
The communist party is “collecting your most intimate data — your words, your actions, your purchases, your whereabouts, your health records, your social media posts, your texts, and mapping your network of friends, family, and acquaintances”, he said. This information could be used to influence, to coerce and to even blackmail individuals to say and do things that serve the party’s interests, O’Brien said in a recent lecture on China.
O’Brien had also spoken about another facet. Where these companies remove information that doesn’t favour China. Like TikTok, he said, accounts criticising the communist party’s policies are routinely removed or deleted.