Friday 30 October 2020

App companies questioned about affiliation, data sharing

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The government on Sunday served app companies that India has banned a questionnaire containing about 80 queries. The government has asked for information such as whether owners are associated with any political party and if the companies are required to share data under China’s law.

It was reported yesterday India was going to proscribe universities’ tie-ups with China too.

The government had banned these apps primarily because there were credible reports saying the app companies were sharing data with Chinese agencies, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The military skirmish in June in Ladakh may have expedited the process of banning the applications.

The authority has divided the questions into sections like “company”, “ownership”, “services & security”, “privacy policy” and “data-related information”. The section on ownership asks whether the company’s owners, directors or “any other members” associated with the firm or its parent entity, subsidiaries or holding company has links with a political party.

The government has asked for the citizenship details of owners and management of the parent and subsidiary companies in case the Indian operations of the app are controlled by a company established in India.

In a question linked to the decision to ban Chinese apps like the popular TikTok, the government has asked if in the event of the majority or controlling shareholder being based out of China, is the company expected to share its data under Chinese law or any other rule or regulation.

The questionnaire seeks details on the financial and technological relation between the parent company and its Indian arm and differences in permissions sought from users in India as compared to those in other locations.

The government has asked about incident response, version update and disclosure with regard to providing information to India’s cybersecurity response cell Cert-In. Given the Chinese practice of providing direct financial support to firms, the queries seek a response on “subsidies” provided for services offered through the app.

Other questions include whether the policies of the app are consistent with India’s Information Technology Act, 2000. There is a question that asks whether users have raised any concerns. There is another that asks if data like IP addresses, browsing history, location and time zones, network type and service IDs and screen resolutions are being collected.

Following India’s ban on 59 Chinese apps, the United States is now contemplating banning TikTok.

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