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Direct banned ‘Chinese’ apps to hand over Indians’ data: KN Govindacharya to Home Ministry

TikTok blocked

The government must direct the banned Chinese-origin apps to hand over all the data they have on Indian users, so that it is not “misused”, former RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya urged. In a letter to the Home Ministry, he called for a cybersecurity audit of the banned apps by CERT-In, so that “sensitive and valuable Indian data is not further compromised”. MediaNama has seen a copy of the letter.

The government of India had banned over 200 ‘Chinese’ apps, claiming that these apps were a threat to India’s national security, and Indians’ privacy. These apps included the likes of TikTok, PUBG, WeChat, Bigo Live, and ShareIt, among others. TikTok has even scaled down its Indian operations, citing the government’s inaction on a clear path forward, and its parent Bytedance has let go several employees in India in the wake of the restructuring.

“This data theft is akin to a usual theft, where the Police catches the thieves, but also tries to recover the stolen goods,” Govindacharya said, adding that the charges under which the apps were banned are akin to “cyber terrorism”. Without any grievance redressal mechanism in place, Govindacharya argued, users of these apps are “left stranded with no remedy to act on their complaints”.

“Government ought to ensure that these companies do not generate undue commercial gains from data already accumulated of crores of Indians,” the letter said. It added:

“The Government’s action to ban Chinese Apps through various order reflects that India has enough legal provisions to take strong actions against Foreign Apps and Tech Companies. After the ban was made permanent, these foreign apps have been winding up their shop and also laying off staff from their Indian arm. As a result of the ban, these apps could no longer access users data from the date of the stopping of their operations, but by then must have amassed huge data of crores of Indian users.”

Govindacharya calls to tax data transfers between Facebook and WhatsApp

Following the raging debate around the latest updates to WhatsApp’s privacy policy, Govindacharya had urged the government to tax data transfers between Facebook group companies. In fact, he said that data transfers done by all tech giants should be taxed “with retrospective effect”.

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“This is a big opportunity to impose taxes on Facebook and other tech giants for data sharing arrangement in India for huge commercial gains,” Govindacharya had written in a letter to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He also said that specific provisions be added to the upcoming Finance Bill to make this taxation possible.

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