The 59 Chinese apps that India banned earlier this week, citing them as a cybersecurity threat, are likely to present their case to the Indian authorities on Wednesday.
Hours after the ban on Monday, India had allowed the local representatives of these apps to convince a government-constituted committee within 48 hours that they are not sending Indian users’s data to servers in China, according to a local media Economic Times (ET).
The committee is expected to conduct a detailed inquiry into the data-sharing practices of these apps. Popular apps such as TikTok, Helo, Bigo Live, Likee, WeChat, CamScanner, and Shein, among others were debarred and consequently removed from Google Play and Apple store in India.
Executives from many of these Chinese firms, including ByteDance, have said that they will co-operate with the government in the investigation. It is to be noted that last year ByteDance had made a commitment to invest USD 1 billion over three years in India. Overall, India accounts for 611 million combined app installs to date of the 2 billion installs that TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin clocked in April.
In a recent statement, Nikhil Gandhi, India head of TikTok said they have been invited to meet concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications. “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law, and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government,” the company said in a tweet.
Before going offline on Tuesday, the app, in a notification to its users said, “We are in the process of complying with the government of India’s directive to block 59 apps. Ensuring the privacy and security of all our users in India remains our utmost priority.”
According to ET, a lawyer representing ByteDance indicated the company may not approach courts directly and will first try to engage with the government.
The government committee will reportedly constitute officials from the ministry of home affairs, ministry of electronics & IT, ministry of information & broadcasting, and law & justice, as well as Sanjay Bahl, director-general of CERT-In, India’s central agency for internet security.
The app ban came amidst the rising tension between Asia’s two largest economies, India and China. The Indian government believes that some of the Chinese apps, which constitute 38% of the top 200 apps in India, were being used for “espionage” on Indians. However, Indian government officials have also reportedly pointed out that the ban is an interim one.
“Given the threat to national security and public order, the ban was necessary at a time of increasing tensions with China,” a senior government official told ET.
Meanwhile, China has expressed concern over the ban. “India’s measure selectively and discriminatorily aims at certain Chinese apps on ambiguous and far-fetched grounds, runs against fair and transparent procedure requirements, abuses national security exceptions and (is suspected of) violating WTO rules,” Ji Rong, spokesman at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, said in a statement.