Google Play, App Store pull down banned Chinese apps

Google Play, App Store pull down banned Chinese apps
Photo Credit: Reuters
2 Jul, 2020

Google Play has removed all 59 Chinese apps banned by the government, while the App Store has discontinued a majority of them in India, based on an announcement by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). 

“While we continue to review the interim orders from the government of India, we have notified the affected developers and have temporarily blocked access to the apps that remained available on the Play Store in India,” a Google India spokesperson said, adding that it had banned all 59 apps. 

Although Apple did not respond to TechCircle’s queries, a majority of the apps on the banned list were not available for Indian users, even as the rest were notified about the impending takedown.

It may be noted that the move only prevents new users from downloading the apps, accessing them or uploading new content on them. It is nearly impossible to block existing users who already have the apps installed.

The development follows a government panel meeting on Wednesday, which looked into the alleged data security issues in the banned China-based apps and ratified MeitY's Monday announcement banning them.

On Tuesday early morning, Chinese internet firm ByteDance-owned short video app TikTok, Helo and Vigo servers in India were blocked by the parent company voluntarily. However, apps such as UC Browser, UC News, SHAREit, Club Factory and SheIn continued to be downloadable on Google Play and App Store in India. 

A senior executive told TechCircle that the government panel, which included members from MeitY; the department of telecommunications; cyber and information security division of the Ministry of Home Affairs; and the Central Bureau of Investigation, had an audit report on each of the apps and the data security threat they posed. The audits were carried out by third-party agencies, the executive said, adding that the panel also discussed how to block existing users from accessing these apps. 

Meanwhile, TikTok, which has been in the government’s crosshairs earlier too for promoting “indecent” content, said that it will not challenge the decision on legal grounds. 

“We have no plans to pursue such action. We are committed to working with the government to address its concerns. We comply with the laws and regulations of the government of India,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed response to TechCircle. The app will be called to represent its case to the government panel, media reports said.