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The government has sought disclosures on the extent of shareholding by parent companies in an app, Chinese affiliations related to shareholding, court proceedings in other jurisdictions and financial and technological partnerships.
The government has sought disclosures on the extent of shareholding by parent companies in an app, Chinese affiliations related to shareholding, court proceedings in other jurisdictions and financial and technological partnerships.

Lens on China apps’ Beijing links

  • Apps such as TikTok have been asked to disclose content moderation policies
  • The operator of app such as UC Browser have been given asked to reply by 29 July

Mumbai/New Delhi: The government has quizzed Chinese firms that operated the 59 banned apps about their alleged links with Beijing, ownership and data security, two people directly aware of the matter said requesting anonymity.

The firms, which include the operator of the popular video-sharing app TikTok and web browser UC Browser, have been given till 29 July to provide a satisfactory explanation, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. Failing this, the ban enforced in the aftermath of border clashes with China will likely remain in place.

“Some of the questions are political in nature, where we have been asked to prove our independent credentials as a company without any affiliations with the Chinese state," said one of the two people cited above, a lawyer representing one of the companies affected by the ban.

Alongside, the government has sought details of data sharing around specific events, including the terrorist attack in Pulwama, and whether any user data was shared with a third party after the incident.

Additionally, apps such as TikTok, Helo and Bigo Live that fall in the social media domain have been asked to disclose content moderation policies concerning sensitive issues such as national security.

The government has also sought disclosures on the extent of shareholding by parent companies in an app, Chinese affiliations related to shareholding, court proceedings in other jurisdictions and financial and technological partnerships. “The government wants to know not just the internal corporate structures, but details of all connected entities," said the second person, also a lawyer. These include all third parties, within or outside India, who may have been employed for running analytics and advertising networks. Some Chinese apps are concerned that the government may also want to see the source code of the apps in the future, which would put their intellectual property at risk although there is no such demand in the list of questions.

Other questions asked include whether the apps have used Bollywood celebrities for promotion and marketing and how much the apps paid them.

Questions have also been asked about data storage. It will be relatively easier to answer these questions, since “data storage is mostly confined to Amazon, Google Cloud, etc, so it is being stored in the US and Singapore among others", the people cited above said.

The second person said that the companies have been asked to disclose how much tax they pay on revenues from India and which other countries they pay taxes in.

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