More than Meets the eye!

Much is written about the ban on 59 Chinese apps and how TikTok may lose upto 6B$ in valuation after India banned it within its borders. Apart from TikTok, many other apps including the immensely famous UC browser have been banned too.

There are a couple of thoughts regarding this action. On the economic side, the supposed losses caused by the ban are notional. While TikTok is expected to lose billions of USD in its valuation – TikTok did not sell much “in-app” purchases in India. In fact, they did not generate much in-app revenues at all [compared to their valuation]. This raises the question: what did TikTok really lose? And more importantly, did this act of app ban change the current balance of trade skew towards India? In real terms – TikTok lost access to one of its biggest user bases; but monetarily, it will not affect China. Also, this 6B$ notional value is not part of the India-China trade deficit. As such, it doesn’t monetarily affect China [as a whole]. India cheering about the monetary loss caused by banning these apps is premature.

However, the second part of the equation – the information warfare side – seems neglected. For a while now, security agencies have been complaining about the amount of personal and personally identifiable information that certain apps have been collecting. Some apps like the infamous UCBrowser are known to bypass built-in app security features and install unverified applications on smartphones [including malware / spyware].

Given the proliferation of Chinese made mobile phones and the ubiquity of such apps in Chinese handsets, the Indian govt [DefMin] had warned active service personnel against the use of 42 mobile applications. This was in late May-Early June 2020. Thirty-Nine of these 42 Apps, are amongst the 59 fully banned by the government.

In the view of the author – the ban must be seen as a move to deny information space to the enemy, than as something economic. These apps represented a pervasive spy network embedded within the general populace, and had the potential to wreak havoc in case of a war. Neutralizing them has impacted the ability of the enemy to wage an information and psychological war on India.


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