Amidst escalating tension with China over a standoff at the border, the Indian government has blocked 59 Chinese apps including the popular TikTok, UC Browser, SHAREit and Likee. This comes within two weeks of intelligence agencies flagging 52 apps linked to China.
“The Ministry of Information Technology, 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 59 apps since in view of information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” a government statement said.
The applications mentioned in the government order could be accessed on the Play Store and the App Store. However, some devices are not allowing fresh downloads. Team Entrackr found that the TikTok app is accessible and one can watch or upload videos.
The order to block has come days after users in India and elsewhere found that TikTok is recording what they are typing on their phones while testing the beta version of the upcoming iOS 14 software for iPhones. This could be a serious threat to users’ privacy, which include non-sensitive information, passwords and emails.
This is a major blow for Bytedance owned popular apps TikTok, Helo and Vigo, and the other Chinese apps which draw the majority of their downloads and users from India. TikTok counts 30% or 611 million downloads from India of an overall 2 billion downloads across the world. The app has over 200 million users in India.
The app has been in the top downloaded category even during the lockdown. The decision from the government has come at a time when ties between India and China entered its worst phase after the 1962 war. The two-nation have been at loggerheads over an escalating situation at the LAC.
While the move to block the apps may have come as a surprise to some, it seems the Chinese companies had read the signs as some had begun winding up their operations from India.
Recently, Bytedance-owned short video app Vigo and Kwai had announced they were shutting down operations in India. Entrackr had exclusively reported about Vigo and Kwai wrapping up local operations (here and here). UC News, a subsidiary of UCWeb, has also started pulling off its services from the country.