Government bans PUBG, WeChat Work, 116 other mobile apps

A boy plays an online game PUBG on his mobile phone sitting outside his house. File   | Photo Credit: AP


The government on Wednesday banned 118 applications -- majority being Chinese, including popular ones such as PUBG, WeChat Work, Baidu, CamCard, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade and Alipay, stating that these were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of State and public order”.

This is in addition to the ban on 59 Chinese applications, including TikTok, Shareit, Mi Video Call, Club Factory and Cam Scanner, in June last.

Also read | Chinese apps among most downloaded TikTok alternatives after app ban

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid renewed tensions between India and China owing to the standoff on the disputed boundary in Ladakh that has been on since May 2020.

In a statement, the government said this move would safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and Internet users and the decision was a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) said it was invoking its 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 118 mobile apps…[that are] engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

The Ministry said it had received many complaints about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers that have locations outside India.

The Hindu Explains | What will be the impact of Chinese apps ban?

“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 stated.

‘Malicious apps’

Additionally, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, has sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these “malicious apps” and similar bipartisan concerns have been flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside Parliament.

“There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens,” the Ministry said.

“In the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India and security of the State. And using the sovereign powers, the Government of India has decided to block the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices,” it added.

Also read | Reliance’s JioSaavn to host videos of TikTok rival on its platform

Some of the applications banned are APUS Security, Baidu, Baidu Express Edition, FaceU - Inspire your Beauty, ShareSave by Xiaomi, CamCard, InNote, Super Clean, WeChat Work, Tencent Weiyun, Cyber Hunter, Knives Out-No rules, just fight!, Dawn of Isles, Ludo World-Ludo Superstar, Chess Rush, PUBG MOBILE, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Art of Conquest: Dark Horizon, AppLock, Road of Kings- Endless, VPN for TikTok and Legend: Rising Empire NetEase Games.

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Kazim Rizvi, founder of a technology think-tank The Dialogue, said that the Indian government is sending a clear message to the Chinese authoritarian regime that there is zero tolerance and zero potential for aggressive expansion at the border. “However, at the same time, retaliating with a ban on the mobile applications without due process may not set a good precedent for the country. There is a need for an effective data protection and cyber security regime under which such actions are taken after due consideration and investigation into the applications,” he said.

He added that numerous jobs are linked with the functioning of these apps in the country and banning them without an alternative in place in the tech ecosystem might lead to loss of jobs as well as future business or employment opportunities in the country.

Likewise, Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer, said, “ Whether 59 apps are banned or 118, all this underscores how technology and geopolitical matters are becoming two strands of a braid. GoI has the power to do so under Section 69A of the IT Act but it's a mere stopgap measure. The data protection law, conspicuous by its absence, has never been more important than now. We must ensure that people are protected and they are not reduced to pawns in the data game.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 6:15:30 PM |

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