Government Blocks Another 54 Chinese Apps Over Security Threats, Privacy Risks

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New Delhi: India on Monday blocked 54 other apps with Chinese links, including Tencent Xriver, Nice Video Baidu and Viva Video Editor, for security and privacy concerns.

According to sources, these 54 apps would obtain various critical permissions and collect sensitive user data. The collected real-time data is misused and transmitted to servers located in a hostile country, they added.

“The banned apps would have been engaged in activities detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, also posing a serious threat to the state security and defense of India,” the sources said.

“The IT Department has issued interim instructions for blocking 54 apps,” the sources said.

The list of banned mobile apps includes Beauty Camera: Sweet Selfie HD, Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Viva Video Editor, Tencent Xriver, among others. Other apps that have been banned as per the new orders include Garena Free Fire Illuminate, Astracraft, FancyU pro, MoonChat, Barcode Scanner – QR Code Scan and Lica Cam.

The crackdown marks the first such measure taken this year after a massive swipe at Chinese apps in 2020.

As of June 2020, the government banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including the hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, saying they undermined the country’s sovereignty, integrity and security.

The 2020 ban – which came against the backdrop of a standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh with Chinese troops – was also applicable for WeChat and Bigo Live, besides Helo, Likee, CamScanner, Vigo Video, Mi Video Call Xiaomi, Clash of Kings as well as Club Factory and Shein e-commerce platforms.

Subsequently, the government banned another 47 Chinese apps that were clones and variants of the apps blocked earlier.

In September of the same year, the government blocked 118 other mobile apps, including the popular gaming app PUBG, calling them harmful to the sovereignty, integrity and defense of the nation. Banned apps in this batch included Baidu, Baidu Express Edition, Tencent Watchlist, FaceU, WeChat Reading, and Tencent Weiyun, in addition to PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite.

On Monday, the sources said the Ministry of Information Technology had received a request to block 54 apps from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under the contingency provision of Section 69(A) of the information technology (IT) law.

According to the report shared by MHA, these apps are either the cloned version or similar in functionality, privacy issues and security threats to those alleged in 267 apps previously blocked by the government in 2020.

The government initially blocked 59 apps on June 29, 2020, followed by 47 linked/cloned apps on August 10, 2020, and 118 apps were blocked on September 1, 2020. Another 43 apps were blocked on November 19, 2020.

The sources said that the real-time data collected by these apps is misused and transmitted to servers located in a hostile country. This will enable them to compile huge personal data to mine, collate, analyze and profile those elements hostile to India’s sovereignty and integrity and for activities detrimental to national security.

“Furthermore, there are other serious concerns as some of these apps may conduct spying and monitoring activities via camera/microphone, access precise location (GPS) and perform malicious network activity similar to apps previously blocked,” the sources said.

(PTI)

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