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Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020 13:00 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020 07:28 [IST]

Time to press the uninstall button

India has imposed another digital strike on China by banning more 47 Chinese applications in the country. These applications were acting as clones of the 59 Chinese apps that were banned previously. These apps, which were variants and cloned copies of the 59 apps banned earlier in June, include Tiktok Lite, Helo Lite, SHAREit Lite, BIGO LIVE Lite and VFY Lite. Like the 59 banned on 29 June, they are suspected to have stealthily sent their user data to servers outside India, thus posing a threat to our national security and public order, reports suggested.
The apps banned earlier included popular ones like TikTok, CamScanner, SHAREit and UC Browser. The Central Government claims that, for India to become completely Aatmanirbhar (Self-Reliant), the ban on these apps is very necessary as our country has many similar applications to Tik Tok, CamScanner which are hardly being used.
Irked by the Indian move, China on Tuesday protested and warned that India should "correct its wrongdoing". China said the ban was a "deliberate interference" and it will take "all necessary measures" to protect the interest of Chinese businesses. The Chinese government's mouthpiece has said that Chinese investors' confidence in India will be battered and hopes of an improvement in bilateral economic relations will dim if India moves to ban Chinese apps following its previous block. Reacting to India's ban of the Chinese apps at a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing, spokesman Zhao Lijian had said, China is “strongly concerned about the relevant notice issued by the Indian side.”
The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) plans to shortly formulate a set of intermediary guidelines to regulate Internet apps and social media platforms based on the country of origin. Reports said that though the current provisions in the Information Technology Act empowers the government to ban apps and block content which threaten national security, sovereignty, etc, a framework needs to be put in place regarding other operational details as well.
One of the provisions in the new set of guidelines would be that companies which are based in countries that share land border with India, can only operate if they store consumer data within the country. Such a provision would make functioning of Chinese apps difficult in the country and if they want to be present in the Indian market, they would have to meet stringent government guidelines right from the beginning.
The other provision, which could be applied to apps from firms which are based in countries sharing land borders with India, is that they would have to compulsorily store data for around three months. This provision currently applies to licensed telecom operators but not to any over the top (OTT) players. By putting such a clause in the proposed intermediary guidelines, the government can always effectively investigate the charges if they are indulging in anti-national activities or activities which endanger law and order situation.
As is known, the government is in the process of formulating an overall data protection law which would lay down specifically what kind of data is to be stored within the country. The intermediary guidelines would be different from it.
Chinese apps were fast gaining popularity before a mid-June border skirmish soured relations between Beijing and New Delhi. These were thought to be acting on behalf of China’s government, which is seen to have scant regard for international norms. The thing with apps, though, is that they can easily adopt a new identity and sneak back in. That may be what prompted India’s follow-up ban.
It’s possible that only a small fraction of apps operating in India have secret back-door access granted to spies and other data gatherers in Beijing. But that’s bad enough. Unless these apps turn their operations completely transparent, suspicions cannot be put to rest. If the ban means Indians will be deprived of some convenient utilities, then that can be put down to collateral damage.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi