The government of India has issued a ban on 59 Chinese apps including a host of popular ones, such as TikTok, UC Browser, CamScanner, Shareit, Helo and more. The ban will have caused a considerable ruffling of feathers for Chinese companies operating apps in India, and while we await word from the likes of TikTok and UC Browser on the ban that has been imposed now, one important factor to note is what would happen to the apps for all those users that have already installed them. To understand the sequence of actions for banned apps on Google Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Store, it is important to note that the key factor at play here is data.
Government sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed to News18 that officials are in the process of informing all Indian internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom service providers (TSPs) already, who would be blocking all data and internet traffic to and from these apps. Since most of them work online only (for example, TikTok is a social medium, UC Browser is a content and browsing app and Clash of Kings is an online game), this would imply that all of the apps that have been banned would by default become non-functional.
With TikTok, UC Browser, Shein, Shareit, WeChat and the likes being banned from Indian app stores, what this also means is that none of these apps would receive any developer support in India. As a result, users who have already downloaded these apps would not be able to access app downloads either. This is particularly risky today, since most cyber attacks target unpatched app versions. App updates nowadays carry critical security patches, without which it cannot be advised for anyone to retain these apps.
Previously, when an app would be banned from a region, it would still remain functional if it did not depend on data. While this would hold true for these apps too, since they would no longer be able to access data in the Indian networks, they would be as good as inoperable. However, if a user moves out of Indian network space to countries where these apps are still legally operational, they may be able to use these services once again.
The ban on the 59 Chinese apps comes in light of the Indo-China clash at the Galwan Valley border, amid rising concerns around the world about Chinese cyber espionage. The likes of Bytedance and Xiaomi, which have significant operations in India, will likely face considerable impact as a result of these bans, since their businesses in India run into millions of dollars. While Xiaomi has only had two of their stock apps being banned, it remains to be seen what effect does this have on the pre-bundled software that they provide with their smartphones.
Requests for company inputs to TikTok and UC Browser sent by News18 remained unanswered at the time of reporting.