India has ordered its internet service providers (ISPs) to block file-sharing website WeTransfer, notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of millions of people are working from home because of a nationwide lockdown to stop the novel coronavirus. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has yet to issue a statement on the affair.
The union government, while opening up the economy in phases, is clearly wary of several tech companies. This can surely be said about its approach to firms based in China, which have issues with data security. Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs had urged the people to get rid of video conferencing application Zoom. Reportedly under pressure, the Chinese company switched to US-based ORACLE server, said a tech partner of Sirf News. But WeTransfer is not a Chinese company.
Founded in 2009 in the Netherlands, WeTransfer allows users to upload and share files of up to 2GB each for free at one time. Paying users can share files of up to 20 GB per transfer.
The 18 May order against WeTransfer from the DoT, which Reuters reviewed, does not specify a reason for blocking the website. It just invokes a clause from conditions laid out for granting licences to ISPs. The clause directs all licence holders to block websites in the “interest of national security or public interest”.
Why WeTransfer got the axe
While the DoT has not issued a statement in this regard, a Lok Sabha session of 2019 gives an indication of the possible reason(s). The Ministry of Information & Technology had then showed that there had been a 442% rise in the number of URLs blocked in India. These URLs have either been found malware or encouraging pornography of any kind or a threat to national security. The ban applies to the whole website.
Surprised by the government move, WeTransfer wrote in its company blog: “At this moment in time, WeTransfer seems to be blocked and unavailable in India.” It said, “We are working hard to understand the reasoning behind this block, as well as how to get it reverted as soon as possible.”
In one of the Lok Sabha session of 2019, the Ministry of Information and Technology showed that there had been a 442% rise in the number of URLs blocked in India. These URLs have either been found malware, or encouraging pornography of any kind or a threat to national security. The ban applies to the entire website.
Competitors of WeTransfer
While personal users in India are more familiar with Google Drive and Dropbox was a huge hit about a decade ago, WeTransfer is a favourite of the corporate sector — especially companies that deal with a lot of videos and high-resolution images.
Smash and Hightail are two other competitors of WeTransfer. Unlike an email with attachments, WeTransfer, Smash and Google Drive allow the transfer of and/or access to heavy files by a mere mention by the addresser of the email addresses of the intended recipients while also limiting the actions the receiver can perform on the files. Hightail is for transferring smaller files.
Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Hathway have blocked WeTransfer for their subscribers. The website is still accessible to Airtel users.