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Will the recent Chinese app bans spiral out of control?

India and China are the world’s most populated countries. The two have been going at it about a territorial dispute high in the Himalayas mountains for decades now with the most recent development being a bloody engagement where 3 of the Indian soldiers died on the spot as well as 17 other heavily injured personnel succumbing in the next couple of days. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has stated that India has tried to cross the border twice in the last week resulting in the bloody skirmish. However, it is interesting that both of the governments are publicly saying that no bullet has been fired between two nations for almost four decades now. How the skirmish with no bullets resulted in the death toll on both sides is still unclear. Although Chinese officials report no casualties, the data has been circulating that the Chinese troops also had a death toll on their side.

The latest incident happened in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Ladakh region. Both military superpowers have been arguing about the high-altitude and uninhabited region for years now. The tensions have risen due to the fact that India has built a new road along the disputed lines. This has caused anger in China and resulted in the deployment of troops as well as new construction of new infrastructure along the border. This drew troops from both sides closer together and led to the escalation of the conflict. Again, this is the first bloody confrontation since 1962 where the sides started a war, which resulted in India’s defeat.

The whole conflict has caused a huge stir in both of the countries. India in particular started imposing sanctions on Chinese companies trying to deal with damage to the on-going monopolization of internet space by the Chinese government involved corporations. This has resulted in the ban of 59 Chinese mobile applications including some of the most well-known names like TikTok, Helo, and WeChat to counter the threats associated with usage of these applications.

This includes all of the casinos and gambling applications, which are technically illegal in China. Despite the illegality of the service, the Macau region on the southern coast of China has managed to keep it legal ever since the 1850s. It has become known as a “gambling capital of the world” or “Monte Carlo of the East.” Companies involved in Indian casino games for real money have been trying to prey upon the “naughty” Chinese population offering cryptocurrency payments in order to hide their activity online. As the Indian government explained these applications may provide a threat to the “sovereignty and security” of the country as a whole and thus may end up restricting access the other way around as well by imposing sanctions and legal action against firms trying to expand on the Chinese market drawing valuable funds from the country’s inner economy turning them into foreign assets.

This is due to the fact that Chinese companies have been spotted to be gathering information about their users in an unsolicited manner. This means that a lot of these applications are using privacy-intrusive strategies to collect and send the personal data of their users back to the homeland.

TikTok, in particular, has come under fire numerous times with the most recent being a record-breaking fine of $5.7 million from the United States Federal Trade Commission after accusations of illegal collection of information from children under the age of 13. The app, which is owned by the Chinese giant ByteDance, a private startup worth 75 billion dollars. The announcement from the umbrella company came out stating that it would begin implementing “age-appropriate TikTok environments,” where underaged users will be restricted from posting videos and comments.

It is also worth noting that TikTok, in particular, has been banned by the United States Army as well restricting the personnel from installing the application on their work-related smartphones due to the security concerns where Chinese-owned video app may be collecting valuable military information as well. The US Navy has also issued a similar statement warning the employees that the phones, which have TikTok on them will not be able to connect to the Navy-Marine Corps intranet. This concern stems from the fact that the umbrella startup ByteDance may be forced to comply with the Chinese government and share their data on the United States citizens serving in the critical zones.

ByteDance has come out stating that all of the information collected from the United States citizens is only kept on the US soil, but the credibility of this statement is still under question and does not mitigate the security concerns at all. It is also worth noting that the application at hand has been censoring user content which may be sensitive to the Chinese government. This detail has come to light when the company actually took down a video showcasing human rights violations by the Chinese officials towards Uighur Muslims.

Inside of India, the ban has faced positive feedback from lots of different companies. Bolo India, which is a rival application to the Chinese TikTok, has shown its approval and hopes that the company will be able to suck up the market share that TikTok lost in India.

The decision of the Indian government is based on the recommendation by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and their department, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, which have come out with concerns about the data security as well as privacy of the Indian population as a whole. This has been elevated to an even higher level when the recommendation also contained information about possible national security threats which are extremely hard to fight in the court.

About Anirudh Singh

Anirudh Singh is a passionate blogger and the man behind Amazing India Blog. He has 5 years of experience in the newspaper industry and he founded Amazing India Blog in 2015. Apart from writing and editing articles on Travel, Business and Technology at Amazing India Blog, he also contributes to other well known newspapers and online news blogs.