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India's ban on 43 Chinese apps draws mixed reactions
While Indian startups have largely welcomed the government's move to ban 43 more Chinese apps, taking it to a total of 267 in a span of about five months, experts have also cautioned that users deserve more information and transparency about the reasons behind the actions.
Extending its support to the latest "digital strike" on Tuesday that banned 43 more Chinese apps, homegrown short video-sharing platform Chingari said that some of the apps in the new list "were banned earlier as well but they just cloaked themselves under a new identity to enter the Indian market."
"The ban is a very smart move and sends out a clear message that Chinese apps cannot use such tactics to engage in activities that are 'prejudicial to India's sovereignty'. At the same time, we would like to assure our Chingari family that the safety of their data is our highest priority," Sumit Ghosh, CEO, Co-founder Chingari, said in a statement.
One of the banned apps include Snack Video which offered homegrown short video apps, that gained traction following ban on TikTok, very tough competitions.
"This is yet another welcome move from the government to stand against Chinese apps that always have had serious privacy issues. We happily extend our support to all the language users and creators of Snack Video especially who are residing in tier 3/4 cities to come and join Bolo Indya," said Varun Saxena, Founder and CEO, Bolo Indya.
However, Mishi Choudhary, Founder of SFLC.in, a legal services organisation working on law, technology and policy, said that the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology "has made it a practice of issuing orders banning websites citing vague reasons without offering details that users deserve when being deprived of access to information."
Earlier on June, 29, the government had blocked access to 59 mobile apps and on September 2, 118 more apps were banned under section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
In addition, the government in late July, cracked down on 47 more mobile apps, most of which were reportedly clones or lite variants of the Chinese apps banned in June.
Launching the fresh assault on 43 Chinese apps on Tuesday, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the "action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order."
While announcing the ban on 59 apps in June, the ministry also said that it received "many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to operation of certain apps."
"What started with the ironical assertion that the government was worried about personal data -- considering we are still dithering on a personal data protection law and stories about data theft are so rampant that they don't even make it to front page news anymore -- has now turned into an unfortunate trend," Choudhary said.
"If these Chinese apps are indulging in notorious practices which they might be, more information and transparency would help users see these orders as necessary instead of what they look like now --a sign of controlling choice," she added.
SafeHouse Technologies, a cyber security tech enterprise that provides solutions to secure mobile phones, has welcomed the government's move to ban 43 more Chinese apps, saying that "the government has yet again proved that the security and hygiene in the Indian smartphone and app ecosystem needs to be maintained."