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India has banned more than 100 additional apps with linkage to China, including popular mobile game PUBG, citing cybersecurity concerns as geopolitical tensions escalate at the two neighboring nations’ disputed border.
On Wednesday, India’s IT Ministry ordered to ban 118 apps that it said were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” The move will help “safeguard the interests of crores (tens of millions) of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security, and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” the ministry said.
The move comes months after New Delhi banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, which counted India as its biggest international market.
Among the new apps that have been banned today include search engine Baidu, business collaboration suite WeChat Work, cloud storage service Tencent Weiyun, Rise of Kingdoms game, utility service APUS Launcher, a VPN for TikTok, e-commerce service Mobile Taobao, video hosting service Youko, news outlet Sina News, card reader service CamCard, as well as a miniature version of PUBG. (You can see the full list here.)
PUBG — published and distributed in India by Chinese giant Tencent — is by far the most popular title among the newly banned apps. It had more than 40 million monthly active users in July in India, according to one of the top mobile insight firms. According to research firm Sensor Tower, India accounts for more than a quarter of PUBG’s lifetime installs.
“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside of India,” the Indian ministry said in a statement. “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.”
New Delhi-based digital advocacy group Software Law and Freedom Centre expressed concerns over the grounds on which the ban was issued. “India unfortunately lacks both a data protection law and a comprehensive cybersecurity policy. The ban has highlighted the need for transparency and accountability in the committee proceedings as well as in the executive decisions banning applications or websites,” it said in a statement.
Tensions between the world’s two most populous nations have been swirling since early this year and escalated after more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June.
Ever since, “Boycott China” — and variations of it — has trended on Twitter in India as a growing number of people post videos demonstrating destruction of Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products.
In April, India also made a change to its foreign investment policy that requires Chinese investors — who have ploughed billions of dollars into Indian startups in recent years — to take approval from New Delhi before they could write new checks to Indian firms. The move has significantly reduced Chinese investors’ presence in Indian startups’ deal flows in the months since.
Last month, Alibaba Group reportedly halted any new investments in Indian firms for at least six months.
On Monday, India’s Defence ministry said Indian soldiers had stopped an attempt to claim more ground by Chinese troops late last week in violation of the two nation’s existing agreements.