[Update 2: Google Play Store blocks access] India bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Mi Community, and Clash of Kings

[Update 2: Google Play Store blocks access] India bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Mi Community, and Clash of Kings

Update 2 (07/02/2020 @ 02:18 AM ET): Google has blocked access to all the 59 apps mentioned in the list from the Play Store in India.

Update 1 (06/30/2020 @ 01:30 AM ET): TikTok India has released a statement on its ban in India. Scroll to the bottom for more information. The article as published on June 29, 2020, is preserved below.

The Government of India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT has just issued a press release announcing the ban of 59 apps that are “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” The list of banned apps includes TikTok among others. As of today, here is the list of 59 Chinese apps that will be banned in India:

List of 59 Chinese-made apps now banned in India

  1. TikTok
  2. Shareit
  3. Kwai
  4. UC Browser
  5. Baidu map
  6. Shein
  7. Clash of Kings
  8. DU battery saver
  9. Helo
  10. Likee
  11. YouCam makeup
  12. Mi Community
  13. CM Browers
  14. Virus Cleaner
  15. APUS Browser
  16. ROMWE
  17. Club Factory
  18. Newsdog
  19. Beutry Plus
  20. WeChat
  21. UC News
  22. QQ Mail
  23. Weibo
  24. Xender
  25. QQ Music
  26. QQ Newsfeed
  27. Bigo Live
  28. SelfieCity
  29. Mail Master
  30. Parallel Space
  31. Mi Video Call – Xiaomi
  32. WeSync
  33. ES File Explorer
  34. Viva Video – QU Video Inc
  35. Meitu
  36. Vigo Video
  37. New Video Status
  38. DU Recorder
  39. Vault- Hide
  40. Cache Cleaner DU App studio
  41. DU Cleaner
  42. DU Browser
  43. Hago Play With New Friends
  44. Cam Scanner
  45. Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile
  46. Wonder Camera
  47. Photo Wonder
  48. QQ Player
  49. We Meet
  50. Sweet Selfie
  51. Baidu Translate
  52. Vmate
  53. QQ International
  54. QQ Security Center
  55. QQ Launcher
  56. U Video
  57. V fly Status Video
  58. Mobile Legends
  59. DU Privacy

Many notable apps are on this list. First of all, there’s TikTok, the video-sharing social media platform that has seen a surge in popularity since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Then there are multiple apps from Xiaomi, including Mi Community and Mi Video Call. Popular utility apps like Parallel Space, Xender, Shareit, and Cam Scanner are also mentioned. China’s Twitter alternative, Weibo, will also be banned. The incredibly popular “Clash of Kings” mobile game will also be banned in India. We’ve seen controversies arise around several of these applications in the past, most notably TikTok, Cam Scanner, and all the DU mobile apps, but to see a targeted ban like this from a major government is something we never quite expected.

The Government of India “has decided to disallow the usage of [these apps], used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices.” This means that Indian users will not be able to access these apps and services through either the mobile app or through a website sometime after today, though it’s unclear if the government will force app stores to delist these apps on mobile app stores on top of blocking these services on an ISP-level.

India is citing section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in its decision to ban these 59 mobile apps. Section 69A of the IT Act reads as follows:

69A. Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource.–

  1. Where the Central Government or any of its officers specially authorised by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.

  2. The procedure and safeguards subject to which such blocking for access by the public may be carried out, shall be such as may be prescribed.

  3. The intermediary who fails to comply with the direction issued under sub-section (1) shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and also be liable to fine.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT notes “raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians” as a contributing factor in its decision. The ministry “has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the 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.” Because of “the compilation of [this] data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India,” the Ministry of Electronics and IT considers this matter “of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures.” Tensions between India and China have been escalating this month over border disputes which led to a major Chinese smartphone maker canceling its live online product launch and spurring consumers to voluntarily boycott Chinese-made apps and products. Today’s announcement is the latest escalation that has spilled over into the realm of smartphone technology.

We will keep an eye out on this news to see if the ban list is expanded, shrunk, or dismissed entirely in the coming days.


Update: TikTok releases statement after its removal from the Google Play Store in India

TikTok India has released a statement on its ban in India:

The statement re-addresses that the app complies with all Indian rules and regulations. From the statement, it appears that TikTok has also voluntarily delisted itself from the Play Store. Other apps in the list are still available to download, so it does appear that the removal is voluntary in order to comply with the interim order.


Update 2: Google Play Store blocks access to the 59 apps in India

As the interim order banning the 59 Chinese apps went into effect in India, several apps named within the list had voluntarily delisted themselves/ blocked access to their use for users in India. Now, Google has put the ban into effect on the Play Store as these 59 apps have been temporarily blocked for India.

In a statement to Hindustan Times, Google has confirmed the same:

While we continue to review the interim orders from the Government of India, we have notified the affected developers and have temporarily blocked access to the apps that remained available on the Play Store in India.

The Apple App Store is also expected to follow suit. Meanwhile, several of the affected apps have assured their users that their data is safe and secure within India and that they are in talks with concerned government officials to clear the issue.