The Government of India has banned 59 mobile apps including TikTok, UC Browser and other Chinese apps on Monday, 29 June, calling them "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order."
Ministry of Electronics and IT, in a statement, said, it is "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 the information available they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order."
“At the same time, 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.”Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
Since many Chinese apps have been suspected of harvesting the data of users and feed to Chinese intelligence agencies, this move by the Indian government looks to be in line to avoid the same.
With this decision coming through, the biggest blow has been dealt on short-video making app TikTok which has a huge following in India. In 2019, TikTok had a monthly active user base of 120 million in India which is one of the app’s largest in the world.
Minister of Information and Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad has welcomed this move as a necessary step for the “safety, security, defence, sovereignty & integrity of India.”
The Ministry of Information Technology also added that it 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," it added.
According to the government, 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," said the ministry.
This moves comes amid a face-off between India and China in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
'Political Decision': Experts Weigh In
Following the announcement, many experts took to Twitter to express their views and concerns.
Nikhil Pahwa, Founder of MediaNama said, "This is the very first time, to my knowledge, that the Indian govt has actually ANNOUNCED a ban on apps under Section 69 of the IT Act. You know what's surprising? They don't NEED to announce it. Section 69 allows for secret govt blocking."
"Thus, this is a POLITICAL decision. It has been announced to send China a message. It should not be seen as anything but a political decision. No change in way these apps function over the past 3 months. If this is the right decision, why wasn't it taken a year ago?" he added.
He also asked the government, "What does blocking mean? Does it mean that the apps (from the 59) you've downloaded will stop functioning? Or does it mean that apps will be blocked at an ISP level? Or will the app store and play store stop downloads?"