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India to give chance to TikTok, other banned Chinese apps to explain their case

TikTok (AAron Yoo/Flickr)

A day after banning 59 Chinese mobile apps, including Bytedance’s TikTok, Alibaba’s UC Browser, and Tencent’s WeChat, citing security concerns, the Indian government will give an opportunity to these companies to explain their case regarding compliance to privacy and security parameters.

A senior government official said that while an interim order was announced on Monday, the government committee, dealing with cyber law will soon come out with a detailed order.

“The due process of the law requires an analysis of what the matter is on record. This is an ‘interim order’ (of banning apps). There is a process defined in the information technology law, with regard to the blocking of apps. A government committee will look into it and will pass a more detailed order,” the official told Mint.

“The companies will be given a fair opportunity and have been asked to explain their case,” the official cited above said.

The Union electronics and information technology ministry on Monday banned 59 apps citing that they are ‘engaged in activities, which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order’. The development came against the backdrop of rising tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where 20 Indian troops were killed in a violent face-off with Chinese troops in the Galwan area of Ladakh earlier this month. It also came ahead of military and diplomatic talks between India and China scheduled for later this week.

Meanwhile, Chinese short video platform TikTok on Tuesday has been invited to meet the Indian government ‘for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications’. The company’s India head, Nikhil Gandhi, said that the company continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and hasn’t shared any user information of Indians with foreign governments, including that in China. He didn’t clarify when the meeting with the government will be held.

“Further, if we are requested to in the future we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” Gandhi said in his statement. The app, alongside Helo, which is also owned by ByteDance disappeared from the Apple and Google Play app stores a few hours ago.

The list includes ByteDance’s Vigo Video too, though the company was already in the process of shutting it down. It has announced on 15 June that Vigo users would be transitioned to TikTok and the app would cease to exist. At the moment, Vigo Video is still available on the app stores, alongside apps like Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and UC News, Bigo Technologies’ Likee, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, and more, which are all on the government’s list.

Together, the 59 banned Chinese apps accounted for 5% of total installs in iOS and Android smartphones in India in Q2, 2020 so far, according to data from Sensor Tower sourced independently by Mint. The total install counts for these apps had dropped by 21% from Q1,2020, with 330 million downloads so far in this quarter as compared to 420 million in the last quarter.

TikTok, Helo, U Video, UC Browser, and VMate are the top five most downloaded apps in India amongst the 59 that the government banned on Monday.


© 2020 the Mint