The Government of India has banned 59 apps, including Tik Tok, prejudicial to security, and the sovereignty of the country.
Some other popular apps like Helo, WeChat, ShareIT, UC browser and Clubfactory are also in the banned list.
How will government enforce ban?
First, the obvious question: how will the Indian government enforce the ban? Tanu Banerjee, Partner, Induslaw, said: "To enforce the ban, presumably, the Government will block the users from accessing these applications. But, it will be interesting to see how the Government plans to deal with the existing user data on these applications. It’s also significant to note that some statements in the notification, such as ‘credible inputs’ and ‘strong chorus in public space’ appear to be vague."
Also, how many of these apps were under the regulatory radar? She said: “It can generally be observed that of late, the Government of India has been taking a narrow approach in deciding matters that are prejudicial to national interest and sovereignty. However, in this case, some of the apps that are banned under the order have been under the regulatory radar, even in the past. For example, apart from data privacy issues, the e-commerce app, Shein had to scale down their business in India earlier, as several issues were identified in their operations under the Indian foreign trade policy and customs.”
That leads to another question: whether viewing a website an offense in India? To this, she replied that viewing a website is not an offense by itself in India, unless there is a circumvention of any technological protection measures for infringement of copyright. In the context of this ban, we will have to wait to see if the Government issues any further instructions or warnings for users.
What about downloaded apps?
Also, what are some of the loopholes in terms of the people still downloading Chinese apps? Tanu Banerjee replied: "Users, who have already downloaded these apps, may see a message citing the Government’s order as the reason to restrict the user’s access. However, similar banning orders have been passed by the Government in the past as well, and have often been a challenge to implement practically, since the users may be able to view such sites through proxy servers and domains."
How will ban be enforced?
Finally, how can the ban be enforced? She added that to enforce the ban, it’s likely that the notification will be followed by the Government's instructions to Internet service providers to restrict users from accessing these apps. Users who have already downloaded these apps may see a message citing the Government’s order as the reason to restrict the user’s access. It remains to be seen how the ban will be implemented with respect to apps that do not require an active Internet connection, like say CamScanner. These apps are likely to be taken off from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
Apps like Shein, an e-commerce platform, had to scale down its operations in India earlier as well, as they were found to be evading customs duties. At that time, they were asked to refund the amounts collected by them towards pending orders from Indian customers. For the implementation of this ban, the Government may have to issue further clarifications or instructions.