It finally happened. Modi government banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, citing privacy and national security concerns. Not a surprising move considering the increased tensions between the two countries. TikTok, UC Browser, Shein, Club Factory, CamScanner, ShareIt, WeChat, etc. are a few of the most popular apps that were banned and their usage was disallowed in both mobile and non-mobile internet-enabled devices.
Chinese telecommunication and social networking companies have always had a free run in the Indian consumer market. The buck finally stopped with the unprovoked aggression on the LAC. Banning Chinese apps is just the start. We think China’s plan of rolling out the proposed 5G tech in our country, along with future tech investments, will take a turn for the worse in the upcoming months.
Why did India ban Chinese apps?
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said the decision to ban the Chinese apps was based on Section 69A of the Information Technology Act related to spyware and other security issues with foreign app developers. The ministry further added that the Chinese apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting the users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India.” We have covered this particular point in detail in our recent article where we debunked, how Xiaomi blatantly lied about their data policies and framework.
Reacting to the issue, Christopher Ahlberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Recorded Future, a cybersecurity company based in Massachusetts, USA, says, “India’s privacy concerns are not overblown. They are valid.” He further adds that “China would not be above using these apps for large scale data collection. I don’t expect that the government is running all these apps, but they may make an arrangement with these companies to cooperate once in a while. And it’s quite easy to accomplish because the Chinese law requires them to do so.”
The comeback we all saw coming.
Tiktok was the first company to respond to the ban. The company clarified that they haven’t shared any data with foreign governments, including the Chinese, and will not do so in the future as well. It is worth noting that in December 2019, a class-action lawsuit was filed in California Federal Court against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance for gathering user data without consent and sending it to Chinese servers. ByteDance was founded by Zhang Yiming, currently the 9th richest person in China. In 2018 Zhang had promised that ByteDance would “further deepen cooperation” with the ruling Communist Party of China to better promote its policies. In light of this, it would be naive to believe everything that the company has put out in its statement.
Alternatives to banned Chinese apps.
Most of the banned apps are widely popular in India. Millions of users will now be forced to look for alternatives for these apps. Here are a few great alternatives to most Chinese apps banned by India:
1. Tiktok, Helo, Bigo Live, Vigo Video, Vmate & Kwai
Alternatives: You may try using Indian alternatives like Roposo, Bolo Indya and Chingari, although they aren’t quite as established. You can even switch to Instagram IGTV, where you may choose to follow most of your favourite stars from TikTok. YouTube and Snapchat are also a great place to share and consume video content.
2. UC Browser, DU Browser, CM Browser & Apus Browser
Alternatives: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are two of the best alternatives to all the above Chinese browsers. Both the apps constantly update themselves with new features and are very safe to use. Alternatively, you can also try JioBrowser. It is a safe and secure Indian browser that offers an experience similar to UC Browser.
3. YouCam Makeup, Beauty Plus, & Photo Wonder
Alternatives: B612 – Beauty & Filter Camera is a popular alternative that you may consider to replace any popular photo editing tool on your smartphone. The app comes with more than 1500 diverse stickers and a range of real-time beauty effects.
4. ShareIt And Xender
Alternatives: Airdrop, Send Anywhere and SuperBeam are some of the recommended alternatives to Chinese file-sharing apps.
5. 360 Security
Alternatives: Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus is a good alternative to consider if you are looking to replace 360 Security on your phone. Other free security apps include Kaspersky, AVG, and the indigenous app, JioSecurity.
Alternatives: The Norton App Lock is the perfect alternative to this popular Chinese app. You may also consider Keep Safe and Lockdown Pro.
Alternatives: Adobe Scan is a trusted app that you can use as an alternative to CamScanner. Microsoft Office Lens is also a trustworthy alternative.
8. Shein & Club Factory
Alternatives: One of the best alternatives to Shein is Myntra, which also happens to be the biggest fashion retailer in India. Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal are the most obvious alternatives to Club Factory.
9. ES File Explorer
Alternatives: File Commander, Google Files Go and Solid Explorer are great applications that offer the same features as ES File Explorer
10. WeChat, QQ, MI Video Call
Alternatives: There is no shortage of apps in this category, and one of the most popular alternatives to consider is, of course, WhatsApp. Google Duo, Telegram and Hike are also good options.
The End Game
The decision to ban Chinese apps underscores the fact that the cyber world is also an active part of the geopolitical world. This is also the right time for India to set up a robust cyber policy that addresses our country’s data security concerns and also respects the rights of an individual; unlike the authoritarian regime in China. Strong policies that protect the interests of Indians should be the ‘default setting’ for any company that wants to access a market that’s as big as India.
The government has to look at this as a long-term issue while the general public needs to be more aware of the source of the software they use on their digital devices. Indian innovators can also use this as an opportunity to develop Indian platforms that are more in line with our needs. Regardless of where the whole elephant versus dragon saga goes, one thing is for certain, China’s digital dominance in India is fading, and it’s fading fast.