New Delhi: In a huge move, the central government on Monday decided to ban 59 mobile applications linked to China on grounds of national security. A formal order, asking phone companies to block the applications as soon as possible, was issued after weeks of discussions that started much before the Ladakh border standoff with China. But government officials told that the deliberations were fast-tracked after June 15 violent scrap between soldiers at Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh. A statement by the information technology ministry said a decision had been taken to block 59 applications “since in view of the information available, they are engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
The applications include popular short-video app TikTok, and other utility and content apps such as UC browser, Xender, SHAREit and Clean-master. It was the first to report about the government move on June 17. Indian intelligence agencies had been pushing for restrictions on the mobile applications on grounds that the apps were designed to extract data and park them outside the country where they could be used to intrude into the privacy of citizens. Chinese companies have long been suspected of building backdoors in their hardware and software, one reason why many governments across the world have been uneasy at the prospect of deploying Chinese-made 5G networking equipment. Robert O’Brien, the National Security Adviser in the Trump administration, had recently detailed how China-linked companies acted as an arm of Beijing’s communist party and tried to “control thoughts” to serve the party’s interests.
The communist party is “collecting your most intimate data — your words, your actions, your purchases, your whereabouts, your health records, your social media posts, your texts, and mapping your network of friends, family, and acquaintances”, he said. This information could be used to influence, to coerce and to even blackmail individuals to say and do things that serve the party’s interests, O’Brien said in a recent lecture on China. O’Brien had also spoken about another facet. Where these companies remove information that doesn’t favour China. Like TikTok, he said, accounts criticising the communist party’s policies are routinely removed or deleted.