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India bans TikTok, dozens of other Chinese apps

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The Indian government on Monday evening said it was banning 59 apps developed by Chinese firms over concerns that these apps were engaging in activities that threatened “national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India” in what is the latest standoff between the world’s two most populated nations.

Among the apps that India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT has ordered to ban include ByteDance’s TikTok, which counts India as its biggest overseas market; Community and Video Call apps from Xiaomi, which is the top smartphone vendor in India; two of Alibaba Group’s apps (UC Browser and UC News); Shareit; CM Browser, Club Factory, which claims to be India’s third-largest e-commerce firm; and ES File Explorer.

This is the first time that India, the world’s second largest internet market with nearly half of its 1.3 billion population online, has ordered to ban so many foreign apps. New Delhi said nation’s Computer Emergency Response Team had received many “representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues.”

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India,” it said.

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The apps India is banning

Tarun Pathak, an analyst at research firm Counterpoint, said the order would impact roughly one in three smartphone users in India. TikTok, Club Factory and UC Browser and other apps put together had more than 500 million monthly active users in May, according to one of the top mobile insight firms.

And, 27 of these 59 apps were among the top 1,000 Android apps in India last month, according to the mobile insights firm — data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch.

It’s unclear what exactly the “ban” means and how mobile operating system makers and internet service providers are expected to comply. At the time of writing, all of the aforementioned apps were available to download from Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store in India.

Google said it had yet to receive the order from New Delhi. Apple said it was reviewing the order. The companies have traditionally complied with such app removal requests.

New Delhi said it had 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 India.”

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