The government, on Tuesday, directed the 59 banned Chinese applications to ensure strict compliance with the ban, warning of enforcement action against them in case of violations, a source told PTI.
On June 29, India banned 59 Chinese applications, including popular ones such as ByteDance-owned TikTok and Alibaba’s UC Browser, among others, citing threats to data privacy.
The IT Ministry has now written to the banned applications, informing them that availability and operation of the apps is a punishable offence, according to provisions of the Information Technology Act, and would attract penal provisions.
Earlier this month, Inc42 had reported that Chinese ecommerce store ClubFactory, one of the banned apps, was still available for download in the country through alternative sites, after being removed from the Google Play Store and iOS App Store. As of Wednesday, these portals are still accessible in India with an APK file available for download. The APK file of the Club Factory app can be used to install the application on Android smartphones. However, Club Factory is not accepting orders on its mobile application, as per government directives.
If any apps in the banned list are found to be made available by the company through any means for use within India, directly or indirectly, it would be construed as a violation of the government orders, the source added.
Earlier this month, the government had sent 50 questions to the banned applications, seeking to know about their parent companies, the financial structure of these companies, the beneficial owners, the countries of incorporation for these companies, among other things. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had also clarified that the banned applications would be given an opportunity to present their case, in adherence to the provisions of the Information Technology Act.
Taking The VPN Route
The government’s move to ban 59 Chinese apps on Monday is likely to push users towards virtual private networks (VPN) once again. Companies like SatoshiVPN were the first off the block. Within hours of the government’s announcement, it put out an advertisement in social media which read, “An investment in a VPN is an investment that always pays for itself — many times over.”
Indians are not new to using the VPN route to circumvent bans. Earlier, in October 2017, the Department of Telecom (DoT) had asked the internet service providers to ban 827 websites for allegedly hosting child pornography, which also spurred the usage of VPN apps. PornHub’s 2019 report revealed that 91% of its visitors from India used mobile phones to browse the website. This was despite two of the largest telecom and internet service providers in India — Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — having taken down most porn websites on their network in many telecom circles.