Centre blocks 54 Chinese apps over privacy, security, espionage concerns

Updated on Feb 14, 2022 12:04 PM IST

It said they were clones of previously taken down applications and obtained critical permissions and collected sensitive user data

The apps were blocked on the basis on inputs from Union home ministry. (HT PHOTO)
The apps were blocked on the basis on inputs from Union home ministry. (HT PHOTO)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has banned 54 Chinese apps over privacy, security, and espionage concerns, saying they were clones of previously taken down applications and obtained critical permissions to collect sensitive user data.

As many as 267 apps were earlier blocked in 2020 citing privacy and security threats amid border tensions between India and China. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the then Union electronics and information technology minister , called the bans on the applications a “digital strike against China.”

In a statement, the electronics and information technology ministry said the 54 apps misused and transmitted real-time data to servers located in a hostile country. “This will enable them to compile huge personal data to mine, collate, analyse and profile by the elements who are hostile to the sovereignty and integrity of India and for activities detrimental to national security.”

It added a request for the blocking of apps was received from the home ministry under an emergency provision in the Information Technology Act. The statement cited a report from the home ministry and added these apps were either cloned versions or had similar functionality. It added some of these apps could carry out espionage and surveillance activities via “camera/mic, accessing fine location (GPS) and do malicious network activity similar to previously blocked apps”.

The statement said the apps allegedly engaged in activities prejudicial to the country’s sovereignty and integrity and also posed a serious threat to the security of the state and India’s defence.

The banned apps include Beauty Camera, Equalizer, Music player, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, Tencent Xriver, and Conqueror Online II.

India first took down TikTok and 59 other applications in June 2020. A month later, mirror applications were taken down as they were functioning despite the ban. In September 2020, the government banned 118 mobile applications, including popular gaming platform PUBG, for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users data in an unauthorised manner”.

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