TikTok, Shareit and Weibo among 59 Chinese apps to be banned

The government on Monday blocked 59 Chinese mobile apps reportedly engaged in activities prejudicial to India’s sovereignty, integrity and defence, security of state and public order.

Described as “malicious” the nearly five dozen apps that will be axed include the super popular TikTok, Shareit, Weibo besides Kwai, Cam Scanner, Clash of Kings, News Dog, Selfie City and Mail Master.

Justifying its move announced through a late evening Press release issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the government said that it was addressing raging concerns on aspects related to data security and for safeguarding the privacy of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. “This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace. This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users.”

 The Ministry of IT and Electronics said that it has received many complaints and reports about 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. “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures, ”the release said

Noted Constitutional and technology law expert Vivek Sood, dismissed the government decision as “ex facie unconstitutional. “ This move is authoritarian in nature and should be withdrawn right away as this is unconstitutional. It is the prerogative of the ''Indian citizens to choose which App they want to use. Merely because these apps belong to Chinese companies is no ground to remove them from the internet.”

 A senior advocate, Mr Sood, said that the government in a high handed manner is seeking to restrict free speech, life and liberty of citizens of India. He said that it violates the freedom of speech and expression guraranteed to the citizens of India under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

 Sood, who has authored numerous books, including ‘The fundamental right to Internet’, asserted, “The grounds given by the government to take these mobile apps off the social media in India are per se arbitrary and unreasonable. These grounds are very vague and general and not specific in nature. From the perspective of the citizens of India, the removal of these apps affect the fundamental right to free speech and right and liberty. “

 The Ministry explained in the release that it was invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.

It said that the decision had been taken following complaints from numerous quarters and concerns voiced by public representatives. “The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues. There have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament. There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.”

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