It is not just the Chinese mobile applications that have been popular in India, Chinese mobile phones, digital cameras and other devices are equally in use here. These too can potentially capture personal data of millions of Indians and share it with the Chinese government or bad actors, cautioned Pavan Duggal, a cyber law expert and Supreme Court lawyer.
“India’s cyber law is yet to have proper provisions to fully ensure that privacy of personal data, and therefore it is the responsibility of each individual to use such apps/devices with adequate caution,” Mr. Duggal told The Hindu .
“It is important that users do a proper due diligence before downloading any mobile app. The problem is that most Indians blindly start using apps without reading the terms, conditions and privacy policies. They easily give out blanket permissions to apps to access their phone data, address book, camera, photo gallery and everything, thereby exposing themselves to multiple dangers.”
A recent mobile app analysis indicated that Chinese mobile applications insisted on far more access permissions from users compared to most other apps available internationally today.
According to Mr. Duggal, the government has already realised that personal data of Indians are going outside the territorial boundaries of the country and this could lead to security issues. By banning Chinese mobile apps, India was sending a strong message to someone who was trying to question the country’s supremacy, sovereignty and security.
According to Dr. Ananth Prabhu G, a cyber law and security trainer for several law enforcement bodies, most Chinese apps are offered for free because they want to get more people to use it so that they can collect as much personal data as possible. Even a beauty filter app would ask access to the users’ SMS so that eventually they will know the users’ bank balance and profiling them becomes easy.
“It is always better to stay away from Chinese apps and devices as a majority of them come with a hidden agenda. China is a highly-advanced country and it has all sorts of tools for profiling and is extremely good at machine learning and that means it can make sense of any kind of data and turn it to its advantage. Let’s not forget that data is the new oil and personal data is the cream on top of it,” warned Dr. Prabhu.
The Ministry of Information and Technology had already asked app platforms such as Playstore and AppleStore to remove these apps on Monday and TikTok has already been removed.
Explaining the impact of the ban, N. Raja Sujith, Partner-Head South India at Majmudar & Partners, said the ban on these apps deals a big blow to the Chinese firms. For example, social media app TikTok had roughly over 120 million monthly users in India and generated $500 million for its creator Bytedance.