The government in India has banned 59 Chinese-made apps, including the short video social app TikTok and the popular messaging app WeChat. Indian officials claim they pose a danger to the country.
As we reported last week, the diplomatic tension between China and India is playing out on smartphones and app stores. India’s Ministry of Information Technology has now taken things to the next stage, saying in a statement that the 59 apps it has banned were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
Both nations deployed more troops to the Ladakh region this month as the dispute over a common border in the Himalayas continues. Twenty Indian soldiers have been killed. The number of Chinese casualties is unknown.
Given its inability to compete with China’s military and economic power, India’s retaliation to the conflict has been digital. The New York Times reports that: “Chinese telecommunication and social networking companies have long eyed India’s giant market and its enormous potential.” With around 50 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population online, India is a huge market for companies with a hand in mobile.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology said it received complaints from various sources about the apps it was banning as they were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner”. The statement continued: “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.”
ByteDance, the parent company that owns TikTok, is based in Beijing. TikTok has around 120 million users in India, which some analysts suggest is as many as a third of the app’s total userbase. Neither the Chinese government, ByteDance, or TikTok has made an official comment on the app ban yet.