The govt said the applications are engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” The ban has been imposed under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009, it said. The government also cited complaints about data on Indian users being transferred abroad without authorization.
The move could come as a blow to China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions, eroding the valuation of the companies. It could also lead to more countries following India’s cue and acting against these apps, sources told ET.
A top official said the government had considered all aspects before taking the decision. “These apps have been there for a long time, and there are some privacy and security issues with them including risks of data going out of the country,” said the person.
The statement from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) said it had received complaints from various sources, including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers outside India.
The compilation of the 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,” it said. “There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country.”
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has sent an “exhaustive recommendation for blocking the malicious apps,” the press release said.
The Internet Freedom Foundation said, “This is not a legal order issued under Section 69A. Our first ask is transparency and disclosure.” The activist group tweeted such cases needed to be considered individually and not in the aggregate.
“There is legitimacy in concerns of data security and citizens’ privacy,” it said. “This may be achieved through regulatory processes that emerge from objective, evidence based measures. This ensures credible action that protects individual liberty, innovation & security interests.”
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