FAQ: What Happens to Banned Chinese Apps? Should I Delete TikTok?
Some frequently asked questions around banned Chinese apps in India.
Creative Producer: Puneet Bhatia
Amid India-China border tension, the Indian government has targeted low-denomination items that can be used to send a message to the Chinese – a ban on 59 Chinese applications.
With many of these apps accused of collecting sensitive user data and even spying, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 29 June, Monday banned apps like TikTok, ShareIt, and UC Browser, which have a huge subscriber base in India.
The ban has ruffled some feathers with users wondering what happens to the apps that have already been installed. Should they delete these apps since they have been banned? Will they still be able to use these apps? What happens to the content that they have already produced?
We try to answer some of these questions. Read on.
How will the ban be imposed?
For the ban to come into effect and for these apps to be removed, the ministry will have to send a legal notice to Google and Apple to remove these 59 applications from their respective app stores.
The second step would be to inform telecom operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to stop the traffic of data on these applications as data is key for these apps to work.
Since the ban was announced on 29 June, we are not really sure how long will the process take for these apps to cease functioning.
What is the impact of this ban?
Some of the apps on the list like TikTok, Helo, Bigo Live and even ShareIt have a substantial user base in India. TikTok itself registered more than 120 million monthly active users last year. And at the end of April, the 15-second video-sharing app had hit 2 billion downloads, with India leading the chart.
This ban implies that users of these apps will have to look for alternate applications.
It is believed that most of the content creators on these apps will migrate to Instagram, YouTube or any of the other substitute apps.
Will the ban be permanent?
We can’t really say whether this ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps is permanent.
If you remember, TikTok was banned by the Madras High Court in India last year in April after it was alleged that the platform allowed ‘pornographic’ and ‘sleazy’ content to propagate.
However, the app was restored on the PlayStore later after checks had been placed.
Currently, TikTok and Helo app have requested an audience with government officials – and discussions are due to take place on the fate of these apps in India.
What happens to apps that have already been downloaded?
People who already have these apps on their phone won’t receive any developer support and will neither get access to app downloads nor any updates.
Though people will be able to use these apps on their phone, they will not get any security updates. They will not be able to post the content as the servers will not be accessible on Indian telecom networks.
Video content creators won’t be able to share their content as servers won’t be available. Most apps that work offline will remain to function.
The same stands for smartphones that come with these apps pre-installed on their smartphones.
Will the app automatically delete from my phone?
The apps will not get automatically deleted from your phone. If you wish to uninstall it, you will have to do it manually.
Since the apps have been banned it is advised that you remove them as running an outdated version of the app also puts the user at risk against cyber attacks as unpatched versions are attacked the most.
Do I need to delete the banned app from my phone? Will I have to pay a penalty/fine if I use the app?
The government order says nothing on these aspects.
It places no onus on the user to stop using the apps or even delete them from their smartphones. Instead, the government has chosen to ban the app and the ISPs, Google or Apple may face action for not complying.
As of now, if you go by the law, the users have no obligations to delete the app.
Will all my content disappear from the video-making app like TikTok?
We cannot be sure whether the data will be deleted or not, but users have the option to save their content.
TikTok users have the chance to download and save their videos and other data from the app in case the data is deleted.
To save your content on TikTok, you can go to the app’s setting. You will find the option of Privacy & Safety. Further, you'll find the personalisation and data option from where you can download all your data.
Other apps have similar options.
Why hasn’t been PUBG been banned. Isn’t it also a Chinese app?
PUBG is not a Chinese application. It is a subsidiary of the South Korean video game company called Bluehole.
The game’s Chinese connection comes from its published Tencent Holding which is one of the largest game publishers in the world.
Even Call of Duty: Mobile has been published by Tencent.
Are there any substitute apps available?
Some of the most common examples for TikTok substitutes are Mitron, which is an Indian video-making app and then there is Chingari which crossed the 2.5 million download mark recently. The app was released in 2018 but the developers are looking to make the most of the anti-China sentiment.
YouTube is also working on a short video format called ‘ Youtube Shorts’ but it’s not official when the feature will be rolled out.
File by Google, Share All and Send Anywhere are other alternatives you can use instead of Chinese apps like ShareIt and Xender.
Will I be able to access the desktop version of banned apps like Shein and Club Factory?
Speaking to Pavel Naiya from Counterpoint Research, we learned that these desktop websites will continue to function as they do not directly target user data.
The ban has been imposed on apps that were harvesting huge amounts of data and users need to give permission to their smartphone data and other information like contact details and location to use these apps.
The same does not apply for the desktop versions of the apps unless the user voluntarily feeds his/her data on to the website.
Can I install the app’s .apk file and make it work?
Since the apps have been banned you will not find them available for download on official app stores.
However, you will still be able to download a .apk file (for Android) and install these applications via a third-party.
Just to reiterate, you will not receive any security updates for these applications as long as the ban is in effect.
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