India govt concerned about Chinese apps

Amid the growing popularity of Whatsapp and UC Browser in India, various government agencies have expressed concerns over potential security risks of these made-in-China mobile apps.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Indian government has expressed concerns over potential security risks stemming from the growing popularity of Chinese-developed mobile apps in the country. 


Increasing adoption of instant messaging app WeChat and mobile browser UC Browser has caught the attention of government officials from India's Home Ministry, Telecom Department, and Cyber Emergency Response Team, according to report Wednesday by the Economic Times

Both apps rank among the top 10 most downloaded apps on Google Play store in India, and UC Browser is currently the top mobile browser in India, powering 29.9 percent of overall Internet traffic among India mobile users. Developed by Tencent Holdings, WhatsApp has some 450 million registered users worldwide, though, only 70 million are based outside China. 

Citing a senior official from Home Ministry, the Economic Times said the Indian government was in discussions with various agencies including the Department of Telecom, about practices adopted by Chinese app makers and potential data security threats. None of the Chinese companies, though, had been contacted.

"We will come out with concrete observations soon," Rakesh Singh, a joint secretary who oversees internal security at the ministry, said in the report. He added that these government-level discussions, held in New Delhi, were not limited to WeChat and UC Browser but involved broader mobile policy matters and how India would handle such issues. "It should not happen that today we take a call on WeChat and tomorrow something else starts," Singh said.

BJP MP for Rajya Sabha, Tarun Vijay, urged the government to assess Chinese apps since they accessed personal data such as messages between millions of smartphone users across India. According to stats from Canalys, the country's smartphone market growth leads the world at 129 percent.  

The Indian government had expressed similar concerns over security in May 2013 when it launched a probe into network equipment manufactured by Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE, following U.S. allegations that China was involved in cyberespionage. Responding to reports that the government was considering plans to ban Whatsapp, Tencent in June defended its security credentials, saying it complied with all relevant laws and regulations in the country. 

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