Smart phones and mobiles have become an integrated part of our daily life making a prominent impact on our lifestyle. Almost 94% of Indian citizens own a mobile phone and the bite sized innovative software programs known as applications play a dominant role in charming people to own a phone. 

Mobile applications are those created by business so that their consumers can easily access them and carry them wherever they go. Out of 2,97,927 apps, 24% of them is said to be owned by Indian publishers and over 39% is of China’s. Thus, China rules the app market due to its versatility.

Some of the most popular and highly used apps of China are Tik Tok (1B+ downloads), a file transfer app ShareIt (1B+ downloads), E-commerce business Shein and Club Factory(100M+ downloads), mobile version games PubG and Clash of Clans (100M+ downloads), photo editing apps BeautyPlus and B612 (100M+ downloads), a web browser UC Browser (500M+ downloads) , Cam Scanner (100M+ downloads), etc. 

IMPACT OF CHINESE APPS IN INDIA

In 2017, there were only 18 Chinese apps which fell under the Top 100 apps on PlayStore but in 2018, 44 Chinese apps were added in that year’s Top 100 list. This sudden boom of Chinese apps in India led to a healthy competition between Indian and Chinese developers. Indian developers began to analyze every Chinese app and further construct alternative apps. The takeover of the app ecosystem encouraged innovation and creativity as well. 

It has also been observed that the audience targeted by such Chinese apps are Tier 3-4 towns with the new-to-internet population. Further, such app companies also invest in influencer marketing, such as in TikTok, top influencers are notified to partner with up growing or popular brands for advertisements.  As stated by Shadma Shaikh in FactorDaily, there are 3 aspects Chinese apps look at to satisfy. First, focus on relevant and entertaining content. 

Second, technology localization wherein any region of India with very low bandwidth, the app can be accessed from there too. Thirdly, is to enter into partnership with companies. 

Considering the above 3 aspects, it has been a win-win situation wherein both India and China have mutually benefitted from the popularity of these apps. 

 

Like how every coin has 2 sides, Chinese apps have several disadvantages too. 

REQUEST TO BAN CHINESE APPS 

India is the preferred overseas destination for Chinese apps. However, there are over 25 red-flagged Chinese apps available to Indians that threaten your data privacy and the security of India. Such apps tend to share their user’s data to anyone even outside India and cause malware and spyware. Apps are also said to be potential of damaging the national security and hence, military army and paramilitary have been ordered to uninstall such apps stating that their mobiles might be riddles with malware and spyware. The #1 risk of such Chinese apps is giving them the opportunity to destroy the national security. As claimed by United States, collection of data on government employees will reveal the national private information and in turn cause cyber terrorism. This isn’t the first time Chinese are known to hack into defense forces in India and leak information.

Secondly, the most downloaded Chinese app TikTok with 200 monthly million active users was recommended to be banned in India as several cases of breach of security and sharing of offensive content were reported. In 2019, Madras High Court banned TikTok in the state for 3 months due to its share of pornographic content and videos of threat to children. Further, reports pertaining to cyber bullying, defamation, glorifying violence of women and child pornography on TikTok were filed. Nevertheless, TikTok still continues to be the most download app with global domination. 

The lack of cybersecurity and data privacy plays a major role in doubting these Chinese apps. The Indian Intelligence agencies regarded 42 Chinese apps as dangerous apps even though their use appears to be nothing less or more than merely engaging and entertaining. On surface, users of an app are asked to register using their email ID or mobile number with passwords and nothing more. Prima facie, users believe that sharing such details are not risky and thus will not give any access to their private details to the servers. Unfortunately, it has been claimed that such apps do illegally access and monitor their mobile calls, emails and bank account by the use of bugs and also through phishing. 

In June 2020, a tech company called OneTouchAppLabs in Jaipur published an app called ‘Remove China Apps’ which allows its users to delete all Chinese apps present in their mobile. With over 1 million downloads, that app became one of the top free app in 10 days. Later on, the app was however taken down from the market due to its possibility to create Anti-China sentiment in the country and in turn affect the bilateral relationship of India and China. 

INDIA DECISION 

Although China is the country rated 2nd in the world with highest cybercrime, the government of India has not accepted to put a ban on the Chinese apps on Android and iOS. China, being India’s biggest trade partner, cannot be struck down for mobile applications and in turn decay the relationship between India and China. Although there are border disputes as the Sino-Indian border attack in June 2020, the Indian government still prefers to maintain a cordial relationship with China. 

OPINION 

Although 52 Chinese apps are red-flagged and might disrupt the national security, banning them would rather result in ballooning of disputes between the countries rather than solve technology issues. In order to conceal the fragmented nature of the app ecosystem in India, the responsibility lies with the government and the users. The reports of cyber offenses on TikTok in India, had imposed the Chinese company to bear policies that censor videos of pornography, hatred towards politics, reveal of leaked documents, etc. Hence, stringent policies that will ensure the protection of cyber security and data privacy will be appreciated. 

The Personal Data Protection Bill drafted in 2019 by the Minister of Electronic and Information Technology, does reach out to protect data privacy but not sufficiently. Several controversies have arisen in industries since the draft has been introduced. The controversial element is Chapter 7 that talks about data localization that requires data fiduciaries to serve “at least one serving copy” of personal data on a server in India. Looking at the positive side of this element, this bill ensures data privacy and safety during cyber wars or terrorism initiated by other countries. The Personal Data Privacy bill drafted is a good effort of the government but should consider to revamp or avoid any of the privacy risks the bill creates.

Henceforth, like stated above, the responsibility of protecting the cyber space and its security lies with the Government and its users. 

About Us

We speak the language of Technology & Internet. We understand how the law interacts with Technology & Internet. Cyber Crime Chambers is a boutique firm specializing in internet laws and digital forensic evidence.

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Karthikeyan.N

B.A., B.L., (Hons) IPDP., (London)
Pgd IPR., Pgd Cyber Law., Msc., (IT)
CCI., CFA., IPCL.,
Advocate, Madras High Court

Karthikeyan, is a renowned cyber law expert, who is also the Managing Partner of Law Office of Karthikeyan, a reputed law firm based in Chennai.

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