The Indian government has banned more than 50 Chinese-made smartphone apps which includes the popular app TikTok over concerns that they may be stealing user data.
Of the banned apps include, Twitter-like platform Weibo and WhatsApp clone WeChat, and several other apps which includes browser, camera, news, entertainment and communications apps.
According to the government statement, the decision was taken in fear that the apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”
There were concerns regarding the security and privacy of user’s data.
The statement reads that the Ministry of Information Technology has received several complaints from various sources including reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and secretly transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which are located outside India.
The ban appears to coincide with a period of intense tensions between the two countries after recent border clashes left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
India is TikTok’s biggest foreign market having an estimated 120 million users.
But the app has come in for criticism not only in India. In the US, the Pentagon banned its use by soldiers early this year over security concerns related to its Beijing-based owner ByteDance.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has launched an inquiry into whether the user data collected by TikTok represents a national security risk.
There are also concerns regarding the extent to which TikTok is influenced by Beijing, after it appeared to censor content linked to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
According to Ray Walsh, a ProPrivacy digital privacy expert, commented that the decision taken by the Indian government was probably taken for geopolitical reasons, and that it does not mean it has no basis in privacy best practice.
This ban will seriously reduce the amount of data transferred from Indian citizens to Chinese authorities, via apps such as TikTok. These apps are known to collect huge amounts of data from their users, resulting in covert international surveillance for the Chinese government.
Even though the ban is likely to be controversial among Indian citizens, it may also make other world leaders to consider whether they should also take similar actions.