Two days after India blocked 59 apps developed by Chinese firms, Google and Apple have started to comply with New Delhi’s order and are preventing users in the world’s second largest internet market from accessing those apps.
UC Browser, Shareit, and Club Factory and other apps that India has blocked are no longer listed on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. In a statement, a Google spokesperson said that the company had “temporarily blocked access to the apps”on Google Play Store as it reviews New Delhi’s interim order.
Apple, which has taken a similar approach as Google in complying with New Delhi’s order, did not respond to a request for comment.
Some developers including ByteDance have voluntarily made their apps inaccessible in India, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
India’s Department of Telecommunications ordered telecom networks and other internet service providers earlier this week to block access to those 59 apps “effective immediately.” Websites of many of these apps have also become inaccessible in India.
Thursday’s move from Apple and Google, whose software power nearly every smartphone on the planet, is the latest escalation in an unprecedented tension in recent times between China and India.
A skirmish between the two neighbouring nations at a disputed Himalayan border site last month left 20 Indian soldiers dead, stoking historical tensions. Earlier this week, India blocked 59 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s TikTok citing national security concerns in a move that some saw as retaliation.
In its order, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT alleged that these apps were “compiling, mining, and profiling” users’ data that posed threats to “national security and defence of India.”
The Indian government has invited executives at these companies to give them an opportunity to answer concerns. Kevin Mayer, the chief executive of TikTok, said on Wednesday that his app was in compliance with Indian privacy and security requirements and he was looking forward to meeting with various stakeholders.
On Thursday, Chinese social network Weibo said it had deleted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy. Modi had amassed about 200,000 followers on Weibo before his account was deleted.
India has emerged as the biggest open battleground for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms in recent years. Like American technology groups Google, Facebook, and Amazon, several Chinese firms including Tencent, ByteDance, and Alibaba Group also aggressively expanded their presence in India in the last decade. TikTok, which has 200 million users in India, counts Asia’s third largest economy as its biggest overseas market.
The 59 blocked apps that include Likee, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, and Tencent’s WeChat, had a combined monthly active user base of over 500 million users in India last month, according to mobile insights firm App Annie — data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (A significant number of smartphone users in India use several of these apps so there’s a lot of overlap.)