India’s Ministry of Electronics and Technology has ordered a ban of 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat on grounds of data and security breach. The ministry claimed that these apps were “engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”
In a press release on 29th of June, the ministry went further to state that these apps pose a threat to Indian’ data security and privacy. It went on to state that the action was taken based on several reports that suggested these platforms were “surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.”
The popular multiplayer game, Clash of Kings as well as the document scanning app, CamScanner were also included in the ban. Some other banned apps include: UC Browser, Likee, DU Battery Saver, Xender, Viva Video, Sweet Selfie, etc. You can view the full list here.
Several hours after the announcement was made, TikTok’s apps were pulled from the Google Play Store and iOS App store in India, the video platform’s biggest market.
In April of this year, mobile app analytics firm, Sensor Tower announced that TikTok had suppressed 2 billion lifetime downloads, and more than a quarter (611 million) originated from India. In comparison, the United States stood in third place and accounted for 8.2% of the downloads.
Nikhil Gandhi, the head of TikTok’s operations in India said in a tweet that the company “hasn’t shared any information of its users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government.” Gandhi added that TikTok has been offered an opportunity to request and submit clarifications.
India’s takedown of these Chinese apps comes days after its deadly border clash with China that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead. The incident kicked off a nationwide anti-China campaign with citizens boycotting Chinese services and products. Earlier this month, Google pulled an app from the Play Store that allowed Android users to easily spot and delete apps developed by Chinese firms.
More importantly, India’s order could potentially have further, global ripple effects especially in the United States which has already banned TikTok from several government agencies such as the Navy and the Army citing similar security concerns. In February last year, TikTok was also fined $5.7 million for violating COPPA, a children’s privacy law. In November, the U.S. government also launched a national security investigation into TikTok.