India bans PUBG, 117 other Chinese apps for ‘stealing, transmitting users’ data’ to servers outside India’

The popular online multiplayer battle royale game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or PUBG Mobile Lite is among the 118 new apps banned in India amid fresh tensions along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technolgy (MEITY) banned 118 apps, including PUBG they are “engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”. According to the statement, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre division of the Ministry of Home Affairs had also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps.

“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India. The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement said.

Besides PUBG Mobile, the Centre also banned the recently released PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map: Livik, as well as other popular Chinese apps such as WeChat Work, WeChat Reading and Alibaba Group’s payment app Alipay.

These 118 apps join the earlier 59, including TikTok, UC Browser, CAM Scanner, etc., which were banned by the Union government in June this year following a clash in the Galway Valley in Ladakh. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash with the Chinese PLA on the night of 15/16 June.

With Wednesday’s order, India has now banned 224 Chinese apps.

An estimated over 33 million users in India play PUBG Mobile. While the game was originally developed by an Irish game developer and its desktop version by South Korean developer Bluehole, the PUBG MObile app was developed by Tencent Games, which is part of Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings.

A report in NDTV said that PUBG and other apps had been banned under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

“This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace,” News 18 quoted a statement from the ministry as saying.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, MEITY, said that it had received many complaints about “misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”.

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said.

As reported earlier, Chinese law requires Chinese companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”.

According to another News18 report, PUBG Mobile has a huge fan following in India, including tier-II cities, and tournaments based on the game see big title sponsors, offering fringe gamers sizeable prize money.

The game is popular largely due to its clan mode, where four players would come together – at times from different parts of the country – to take on other similar teams in all-out deathmatches, the report adds.

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