Last night the Government of India announced a ban on 59 different mobile applications with a Chinese connection to counter the threat posed to the country’s “sovereignty and security”. These applications include popular applications like Tik Tok, Likee, Helo, Cam Scanner, Xender, Parallel Space, ES File Explorer, Mi Video Call, Mi Community, UC Browser and more.
The government has also stated (opens in new tab) that few of these apps were stealing and illegally storing user data on servers located outside India. Keeping in mind these privacy concerns and amid the rising temperatures along the Indo-China borders, the Government has issued orders to block these apps with an immediate effect.
The list of these apps:
- UC Browser
- Clash of Kings
- YouCam makeup
- Baidu map
- DU battery saver
- Mi Community
- CM Browers
- APUS Browser
- Virus Cleaner
- Club Factory
- Beauty Plus
- UC News
- ES File Explorer
- QQ Mail
- QQ Music
- QQ Newsfeed
- Bigo Live
- Parallel Space
- Mail Master
- Mi Video Call — Xiaomi
- Viva Video — QU Video Inc
- Vigo Video
- New Video Status
- DU Recorder
- Vault- Hide
- Cache Cleaner DU App studio
- DU Cleaner
- DU Browser
- Hago Play With New Friends
- Sweet Selfie
- Wonder Camera
- Photo Wonder
- DU Privacy
- We Meet
- Clean Master - Cheetah Mobile
- Baidu Translate
- U Video
- QQ International
- QQ Security Center
- QQ Launcher
- V fly Status Video
- Mobile Legends
- QQ Player
Will the already existing apps stop working?
The Government has asked the apps to be removed from app repositories like the Android Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Hence in compliance with the local rules and regulations, both Apple and Google will make these apps unavailable on their respective app stores.
At the time of reporting, Tik Tok has already been removed from both – Play Store and App Store on iOS. While others like WeChat etc are still available to download, they too will be soon made unavailable for Indian users.
While the Government guidelines use the term “disallow the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices,” it means that the apps that are already installed on the devices can remain, however, once uninstalled you may not be able to install them again.
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Do I need to uninstall these applications from my phone?
It is not illegal to have these applications on the phone, however, the ISPs including the cellular operators have also been asked to stop traffic to and from these applications. Hence after a while, these applications will not even function on your device and will be just occupying space on the phone.
Additionally, some companies of Chinese origin use applications like QQ Mail or WeChat for official communication. Their employees in India might be forced to find an alternate way to communicate.
Similarly, some applications that belong to Xiaomi are also on the list. These applications will stop working and the company will have to find alternate ways to communicate with the community. We've reached out to Xiaomi to get an official response and will update this section once we get clarification.
What happens to the data on the application?
The government directive does not mean that the applications will delete your accounts from their servers. If the regulations are relaxed, you may still be able to regain access to your content. However, it all depends on how long the ban will remain in place. Some platforms purge the data of user accounts due to an extended period of inactivity which means that you’ll lose all your followers and content and you may need to create the account all over again.
Ever since the ban was announced, influencers and content creators on TikTok have updated their profiles and are directing their fans and followers to follow them on alternate platforms (opens in new tab) like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook etc.
Apart from social media apps, there are a few e-commerce applications on the list as well. In case you’ve made some purchase or have a product has already been shipped, you can liaise with them via email in case of a query or a dispute.
When will the apps be back?
While there are users urging to unblock popular apps like TikTok, it is up to the Indian Government to remove the ban. Companies like TikTok, which is going to face the biggest impact due to this ban, has been invited (opens in new tab) by the “government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.”
However, if we were to go by the ongoing tussle on the borders and the anti-Chinese sentiment on the rise both in the public and the government quarters, it is unlikely that the ban would be relaxed anytime soon.
Are these apps really stealing data?
Various applications from this list have been involved in incidents around user data security. TikTok especially has had multiple run-ins with the national government. It was blocked last year for showcasing semi-pornographic content and had to go through a litigation process before making its way back to the app stores.
Just a few days back it was found that TikTok has been busy copying data from the iPhones clipboard. While most users do not store personal information on a clipboard of a smartphone but then Tik Tok is also not supposed to access it without user’s permission. Incidentally, over 53 other applications were found to be accessing clipboard data on iOS. At the moment there is no information about them being able to access information on Android-based smartphones clipboard.
Back in October last year, Questions were raised around the amount of data that Tik Tok gathers. Later it was sued (opens in new tab) in the United States for collecting user data and sending it back to the Chinese servers.
Similarly, CamScanner was found (opens in new tab) to be distributing malware on Android smartphones. This malware could steal your personal information, the images you’ve scanned and send them to offshore servers.
There are similar incidents reported against many other applications. Though these incidents may not impact all the users, however, it is the Chinese Govt’s policy that forces these companies to share the data whenever asked makes these applications and your smartphone a real-time remote snooping device.
What are the best alternatives to these applications?
TikTok, Helo, Bigo Live, Vigo Video, VMate and Kwai are different social media platforms that allow users to upload short videos, jokes and other content. Multiple such applications can be used to replace these applications of Chinese origin. Some of these applications are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. Homegrown solutions like Mitron and Chingaari are also on the rise.
UCBrowser, DU Browser, CM Browser and APUS Browser are browsers that help you browse the internet. Much better options Google Chrome, Brave, Opera, Firefox and Safari browser are available depending on the mobile you’re using. These browsers are not only stable, secure, feature-rich but some of them come with additional features to keep your data hidden from prying eyes.
Camscanner allows users to scan their images and text document and convert them into PDF files on the go. Adobe Scan is the perfect replacement for this. It is free and offers all the features like OCR, Scanning and more that are offered by Camscanner.
SHAREit and Xender which help you transfer data between different devices quickly like smartphone or computer can be easily replaced by apps like Files by Google, SuperBeam, ShareAll, Nearby Sharing, and Send Anywhere etc. These apps not only facilitate the transfer of data but also offer added features like encryption and help you delete junk files as well.
WeChat is a regular chat platform and can be easily replaced by WhatsApp or Telegram. Both are feature-rich and powerful independent chat platforms. Most contacts in your contact list would be using either of the two applications, hence switching from WeChat to Telegrams or WhatsApp should not be an issue.
Club Factory and Shein are Chinese e-commerce platforms that can be replaced by the likes of Flipkart, Myntra, Ajio, Amazon etc. Apart from being able to purchase clothes, you will get quality customer support, quicker delivery and grievance redressal as well.
UCNews, NewsDog etc are news aggregators which can be replaced with Inshorts and DailyHunt.
You can read about 5 Indian apps that we think can make the most of this ban, here (opens in new tab).