NEW DELHI: A “multi-level blocking of access” to the 59 Chinese apps banned on Monday has already been initiated by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), government sources confirmed. Top representatives of these mobile applications will also be allowed a hearing within 48 hours where they will be given an opportunity to offer any clarifications.
The list of apps to be blocked include highly popular ones such as TikTok, Helo and Clash of Kings.
In the normal course, the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 requires that such an enquiry has to be conducted by a high-level committee before access may be blocked.
However, the order “banning” these apps has been issued under the emergency provisions of the IT Act and the above mentioned rules. Under these, government departments need not wait for the enquiry to begin blocking procedures.
“Apps will be given an opportunity to represent their side, it is the normal process for any matters such as this. But, directions to begin the multi-level blocking process has already begun. First, they will be removed from the App Stores. Then, internet access will be blocked through orders issued to internet service providers (ISP),” said a senior government official.
While sources from telecom and internet service providers said that no such order has been received from the Department of Telecom (DoT) as of 8 pm on Tuesday, government sources confirmed that these orders will be issued within a day.
“The ministry (Meity) has already made the relevant communications to the DoT,” a senior Meity official said.
On Monday, Meity had issued a statement stating: “(Meity) has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps... 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, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement had added.
Panel to hear Apps’ clarifications
According to the IT Rules on blocking access to information, the committee which will examine the matter has to comprise of designated officers from the ministries of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).
The emergency rules allow the IT department to block access without a committee hearing “in any case of emergency, for which no delay is acceptable”.
However, the rules also mandate that the matter has to be presented before the high-level panel “not later than 48 hours” after the direction has been issued.
A final order will be issued based on the recommendations of this committee, according to the rules, and if the blocking request is found unnecessary, it shall be revoked.
The most high-profile app to be caught in the order—TikTok—said on Tuesday that it has been invited by the government to offer clarifications.
“TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,” said TikTok India head Nikhil Gandhi.