With the rising popularity of Chinese-made mobile applications among smartphone users in India, the government is seen to be worrying about the potential security risks attached to its usage.
The instant messaging app WeChat and UC Browser has generated a serious concern among the home ministry, the telecom department and the Cyber Emergency Response Team in India. Both of them are included among the top ten most downloaded free apps on the Google Play store.
A senior home ministry official stated that, “The government is in discussions with various agencies, including the telecom department, about the Chinese app makers’ practices and possible data security threats, although no official communication has been sent to the companies yet.”
Rakesh Singh, the joint secretary who oversees internal security at the home ministry is believed to come out with concrete observations soon. According to a research, UC Browser has already surpassed Opera to become the most popular mobile browser in India while WeChat, owned by China-based Tencent Holdings is used by over 100 million users outside China most of whom are from India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Singh is of the opinion that the discussions in New Delhi are not limited to WeChat and UC Browser but broader mobile policy matters. It is not upon India how it would handle such issues. “It should not happen that today we take a call on WeChat and tomorrow something else starts,” he said.
Chinese technology firms are trying their best to expand beyond their home market. They are no strangers to attention from the Indian security establishment. There have been evidences in the past where India urged Chinese telecom gear makers Huawei and ZTE to disclose details of their ownership over concerns about harmful software being installed on such equipment. BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay said that the government must conduct a review of Chinese apps as they have access to personal data such as messages and chats from millions of Indian smartphone users.”Instead of panicking, India needs to send across the message to China that we are watching them,” he said. “These apps should be scanned and monitored.”
According to another market research, due to rising mobile phone penetration and the launch of cheap devices, foreign mobile applications have quickly grown in the Indian smartphone market. The figure is estimated to be over 6 million smartphones in the first quarter of 2013.
Since, India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, Canalys. J Satyanarayana, secretary at the department of electronics and IT, said the government will scrutinize the applications if concerns are further raised.
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