The top telecommunications regulator in India has asked telecom operators and internet service providers to block local user access to the 59 Chinese apps banned on Monday, local newspaper Telangana Today reported Wednesday.
Why it matters: The move means users who have downloaded the banned apps before may be barred from using them. Affected apps include Bytedance’s popular short video app Tiktok and Tencent’s instant messaging app Wechat, as well as mobile games Mobile Legends Bang Bang and Clash of Kings.
Details: India’s Department of Telecommunications has asked all internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunication companies to comply with the order immediately and submit compliance reports, according to Telangana Today, citing anonymous sources.
- Some major Indian ISPs, including Airtel, Reliance Jio, ACT Fibernet, and Hathway, have seemingly stopped providing Tiktok access to their users since Tuesday, according to India Today.
- Some users of Reliance Jio and Airtel, two of India’s biggest telecom operators, said on social media that they were unable to access to Tiktok on their networks, said the India Today report.
- All 59 Chinese apps were deemed threats to national security and were pulled from the country’s Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store on Tuesday, according to DNA India, a local news site.
- Tiktok seems to have blocked Indian user access to its service before it is banned by ISPs. Users in India trying to access Tiktok’s website are redirected to a webpage that states that the app is “ in the process of complying with the Government of India’s directive,” according to TechNode’s sources in India.
- The app said it is “also working with the government to better understand the issue and explore a course of action.”
- “Ensuring the privacy and security of all our users in India remains our utmost priority,” said the notice signed by the “Tiktok India Team.”
- Sources in India also said they could use Wechat but they couldn’t load the Club Factory app without virtual private networks (VPNs) as of Wednesday.
Data security probe: Representatives from the 59 banned Chinese apps can appear before a government panel within 48 hours of the announcement to prove that they do not transfer Indian user data to servers in China, according to the Indian newspaper Economic Times, citing government officials.
- The panel, which is likely to meet on Wednesday, consists of officials from India’s home affairs, electronics, information, and law ministries, along with internet security experts, according to the report.
- The committee will conduct a detailed inquiry into the data-sharing practices of these apps. Executives of Tiktok, livestreaming platform Bigo Live, and video-sharing app Likee told the Economic Times that they will cooperate with the government in the probe and they had begun the process.
Context: The Monday ban on 59 Chinese apps came two weeks after a border clash with China left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
- Companies affected by the ban, including Tiktok parent Bytedance and e-commerce site Club Factory, have said they were willing to comply with the Indian government’s privacy standards.
- Tiktok said in a statement Tuesday that it “continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law” and that it had never shared any information of its Indian users with any foreign government, including the Chinese government.