Ban on Chinese apps: How it may impact TikTok, other companies


NEW DELHI: The government has banned 59 Chinese apps in “a targeted move to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.” The IT ministry said the apps listed, including ByteDance’s TikTok, WeChat, and others owned by Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and Xiaomi “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
The move comes in the backdrop of current stand-off along the Line of Actual control (LAC) in Ladakh with Chinese troops. This marks the largest sweep against the Chinese technology companies.
What it means for Chinese tech firms
The ban significantly narrows a top growth market for Chinese technology firms and may embolden other governments to shut them out.
For Beijing-based ByteDance, India has been the biggest driver of TikTok installs, accounting for 611 million downloads, or 30% of the total, according to SensorTower. Cutting off new users, and existing ones as they try to install updates, will sting its mooted valuation of $110 billion.

The company faces a similar backlash in the United States where lawmakers are also suspicious about Beijing’s access to consumer data.
Slippery road ahead for startups?
The blacklist excludes the country’s most valuable startups, including the $16 billion payments giant Paytm, backed by Ant Financial, as well as education star Byju’s, which counts Tencent as an investor.
In total, 18 of India’s 30 unicorns have Chinese funding, Gateway House, a Mumbai-based think-tank reckons. But new investment rules and rising anti-China sentiment may slow the overall flow of capital from the People’s Republic and that will hurt growth.

Will banning apps be easy?
Digital and technology experts say that it will be difficult to execute the ban on 59 Chinese apps as it would require internet service providers to blacklist every host name and domain name associated with these apps.
It would also require Google and Apple to remove these apps from their stores, which could expose users to unofficial versions of the apps.

Experts explained that technology companies upload the official version of their apps on the App Store (Apple) and Play Store (Google), but even when applications are taken down from these platforms, users can still download their unofficial versions from the web.
This poses additional security threats since companies do not roll out updates for the unofficial versions of the apps. Updates generally fix vulnerabilities, which otherwise can be exploited by hackers and cyber criminals.
What TikTok has to say
TikTok on Tuesday said it is in the process of complying with the government’s order on blocking of the app, and asserted that it has not shared information of Indian users with any foreign government, including that of China.

The app has been taken down from Google Play store and Apple App store.
(With agency inputs)



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