India plans to force smartphone makers to allow removal of pre-installed apps and mandate screening of major operating system updates under proposed new security rules, reports Reuters.
Pre-installed apps are a common feature on most smartphones now, including Xiaomi’s app store GetApps, Samsung’s payment app Samsung Pay mini, and Apple’s browser Safari, which cannot be uninstalled. Recently, other apps like Netflix, Samsung Health, and Samsung Internet are also available as pre-installed apps, which cannot be deleted from the Android phones.
New rules could potentially result in longer launch timelines and financial losses for smartphone brands like Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Apple, due to restrictions on pre-installed apps in the country’s second-largest smartphone market.
The move comes amid India's growing scrutiny of Chinese businesses. It has since a 2020 border clash between the neighbours banned more than 300 Chinese apps, including TikTok. India has also intensified scrutiny of investments by Chinese firms.
— Aditya Kalra (@adityakalra) March 14, 2023
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of India is considering such rules amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data, said a government official, one of the two people who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“Pre-installed apps can be a weak security point and we want to ensure no foreign nations, including China, are exploiting it. It’s a matter of national security,” stated the official.
The Indian cell phone market is mostly dominated by Chinese manufacturers, including companies like Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Realme, Coolpad, etc.
News suggesting a crackdown in India has been refuted by the Minister for State of IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has stated that it is “plainly wrong.”
“This story is plain wrong – there is no “security testing” or “crackdown” as the story suggests,” tweeted Chandrasekhar.
The minister said the Reuters story is based on a “lack of understanding perhaps and unfettered creative imagination,” based on an “ongoing consultation process between ministry and industry on mobile security guidelines of BIS Standard IS17737 (Part-3) 2021.
“The Ministry of Electronics and IT is 100% committed to ease of doing business and is totally focused on growing electronics manufacturing to touch USD 300 billion by 2026,” added Chandrasekhar.
📰 #BreakingNews : No More Bloatware or Pre-Installed Apps in Smartphones in India Soon.
This action is taken amidst concern that smartphone brands and app developers might be spying on their users.
Do you guys have same concern? 🤔 Comment below with Yes or No.
— TrakinTech (@TrakinTech) March 15, 2023
Similarly, Kanchan Gupta, a senior advisor at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the Indian government, called it “deliberate disinformation by Reuters.” Strongly denying the report, Gupta said such “disinformation” is “intended to negatively impact the mobile manufacturing sector in India.
“Ongoing consultation on mobile security guidelines of BIS Standard IS17737 (Part-3) 2021 has been misrepresented,” added Gupta.
Chinese Embassy urges India to protect investor
The Chinese embassy in India has stated the South Asian nation should protect overseas investors’ interests. While responding to Reuters’ query about whether “India is planning new security testing rules for smartphones,” during a press conference, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese embassy, reminded India of its responsibility towards foreign investors.
“The Chinese government always asks Chinese companies to observe international rules and local laws and regulations when doing business overseas,” said Wang Wenbin.