Chinese Apps| Threat to Nation’s Sovereignty and Integrity

Introduction

The Chinese borders have always been a subject of controversy with the neighboring countries. It’s expansion policy is not only a threat to the neighboring countries but to the whole world. With the first COVID-19 case in Wuhan and no clear statistics from China now, it seems that COVID-19 is a biological weapon. There have also been many allegations on the Chinese government for stealing data 

On 29th June, 2020 the Ministry of Information and Technology banned 59 mobile apps stating them to be prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order. These 59 apps include popular apps like TikTok, Cam Scanner and Xender among others.

Section 69A of the IT Act

The decision to ban the Chinese apps was taken under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act which empowers the Central Government to block online content if it compromises with the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and friendly relations with foreign states. 

This is not the first time that the Government used its power under this act to ban such apps but the Ministry of Information and Technology banned China, itself has many apps and websites functioning under its laws and circulating throughout the world but still it does not allow tech giants like Google and Facebook in its own country. 

Why are these apps dangerous?

The Chinese apps are a threat to the privacy of the Indian people. This is evident from the permissions taken by these apps which are way more than required. A study conducted by Economic Times reveals that 6 out of 10 apps ask for access to camera and microphone when it is not required. There are also instances of these apps spying on users data. 

Tiktok

Another popular app is Camscanner which was used for scanning documents. Till date there is no app like Camscanner that can efficiently scan documents, this is the reason that this app was used to scan even important documents in Government offices. Thus, posing a greater threat to the security of the state.

In 2019, a study by Kaspersky found malware inside Camscanner which could launch intrusive advertisements, download and execute malign files in background. Similar type of security issues are also found in other Chinese apps. So, is it really safe to use such apps and that too for official purposes?

Why your privacy matters?

Article 21 of the Constitution provides for the protection of life and personal liberty. This right also extends to right to  privacy. The Supreme Court in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India observed that “We have therefore no hesitation in holding that right to privacy is a part of the right to “life” and “personal liberty” enshrined under article 21 of the Constitution. Once the facts in a given case constitute a right to privacy, Article 21 is attracted. The said right cannot be curtailed ‘except according to the procedure established by law’. 

Many a times, people agree to the Terms and Conditions of websites without reading them by clicking on the pop-up window. Similarly, contacts, location and other access is given to apps which should not require it. Giving access to your phone’s messages can even lead to your bank details or OTP being stolen. Former Cheif Technology Officer of AVG Technologies, Mr. Yuval Ben Itzhak also points that in an app data is unencrypted and can be easily hacked.

Shareit app which transfers files should not require  access to location and contacts for its functioning. So, give only such permissions that makes sense. Reports show that only Tiktok will lose a total of $6 billion as a result of the ban but privacy still remains a matter of greater concern.

5 measures you can take to protect your privacy

1. Use the best VPN

2. Use strong and different passwords (remember them)

3. Do not use public storage for private information

4. Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extensions

5. Go incognito when possible

Conclusion

The decision to ban the 59 Chinese apps was indeed the need of the hour, to protect the privacy of the citizens and the security of the state. It further gave a call for Atmanirbhar Bharat and people being concerned for their privacy. So, use only authentic apps and protect your privacy. 

Author

  • da6f15fd 2462 4760 87c1 e70a71316782

    Student of Law at Institue of Law Nirma University. He is interested in dispute resolution and litigation. He has authored several articles on Constitutional Law, Consumer Law, Information and Technology Law, Insurance Law etc.

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