India’s ban on 59 Chinese apps: What lies ahead

New Delhi: With the Indian government announcing to ban 59 Chinese apps, millions of users were in a flux on Tuesday as some of those popular apps were still there on their smartphones and available for downloads, barring TikTok and Helo which disappeared from both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

The next step for the government would be to tell various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove these apps from devices owned by their subscribers and send users notifications, along with sending instructions to Google and Apple to remove all 59 apps from their respective online stores.

Since most of the Chinese phones come bundled with pre-installed Chinese apps, users will also need to pro-actively remove those apps.

The move to ban Chinese apps would affect roughly one in three active smartphone users in the country. Some of these apps like TikTok have been installed on hundreds of millions of smartphones.

“We now expect investments flowing in for local apps which are an alternative to some of these Chinese apps. The scale will be the key here as faster the scale, more user acquisition and retention for the desi apps,” Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint Research, told IANS.

Once the apps are removed from app stores, there will be no updates or upgrades. In that case, the users would automatically exit the platforms.

“We have done a few reports about lack of content moderation and offensive content on one of the blocked platforms and we do believe that there are problems with the platforms that need to be fixed which may extend into being serious privacy and security violations,” said Vineet Kumar, Founder of Cyber Peace Foundation.

“However, in light of the law on blocking under Section 69A of the IT Act and IT Rules, 2009, we believe that all these services should be given a reasonable chance to represent themselves before the government to demonstrate their compliance and security standards,” Kumar said in a statement.

Both TikTok and Helo, products of China-based content giant ByteDance, said that they will abide by the decision and have been invited to meet “concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications”.

TikTok had nearly 119 million active users in India and was among the top 10 apps on Google Play store and Apple App store.

However, other banned apps like Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and UC News, Xiaomi’s Mi community, Tencent-owned WeChat, e-commerce platform Club Factory and document scanning app CamScanner were still available on the platforms for download.

According to Pathak, users will proactively start deleting apps from their smartphones once they realise there are no install updates and the apps undermine their privacy and data security.

Accessing these apps via VPN is also a solution but how many Indian users would try that route is not clear. They would, however, keep receiving short videos from folks from other countries as these apps are only banned within the boundaries of the nation.

“The picture will become clear soon. The China-India border dispute compounded with the economic stress caused due to the pandemic has forced the government to adopt a strategy similar to the US (like Huawei), to potentially retaliate in a way where it would hurt China the most,” Pathak told IANS.



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