On September 2, the government of India put out an announcement saying that they would be banning 118 apps, mostly Chinese from operating in the country. The list included names such as PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor among others. The move comes after months of worsening political and military relations between India and China following the Galwan Valley clashes between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army on June 15.
Earlier, on June 29, Indian government had banned 59 Chinese apps including Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Clash of Kings. Further developments in the story included the Indian Army allegedly making a list of 89 Chinese apps and asking its staff to delete them from their phones. While there were concerns regarding more apps being banned, few were ready for the ban on PUBG Mobile since it is one of the most played games in the country and has made gaming mainstream in the region.
The Official Statement
The GOI’s official statement refers to reports and complaints received via various sources that talk about the “misuse of mobile apps available on iOS and Android for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” This is definitely a serious charge and if true then there is definitely cause for grave concern. To add to this, tech companies in China have a bad reputation when it comes to data security and notable past incidents include bans on Tik Tok in the U.S.A and Huawei in multiple nations. If PUBG Mobile has been involved in such malpractices, it is indeed the right decision as protecting the citizens and ensuring their safety is of utmost priority.
Another theory is that the move is political and adds pressure on China to make amends and work with India in various military and political issues. This makes it more complicated as it would mean that PUBG Mobile isn't directly involved in any wrongdoings but is caught in the crossfire. Tencent is one of the largest companies in the world and with stakes in over 600 companies along with their own subsidiaries, they are a powerful global force. The company is known for its strong ties to the Chinese government and a move like this is likely to shake things up and open up dialogue.
Concerns with Data Security
With Tencent maintaining that data privacy has not been breached, there are legitimate concerns whether the ban was more reactionary than anything else. PUBG Mobile being available via the Apple Store and the Google Play Store means that the app is already compliant with the security requirements for those two platforms. Additionally, the game is hosted on AWS servers in India which means that it is also compliant with data privacy laws in the region.
AWS mentions on their website that they comply with local laws in all regions and in India, "The AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region is designed and built to meet rigorous compliance standards, providing high levels of security for all AWS customers. As with every AWS Region, the Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region is compliant with applicable national and local data protection laws. Customers have the assurance that your content stored in the Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region will not move to another region unless legally required to do so or the customer moves it."
The Way Forward
China’s Commerce Ministry has already opposed the ban calling it a violation of legal interests of Chinese investors and service providers and asked India to correct its mistakes. Given the size of the Indian market and how much money it makes for Tencent, it’s unlikely that they just shut shop and leave. If Tencent and PUBG Mobile are able to prove that they aren’t involved in data theft and that data from Indian users are stored securely, there would be no reason for the GOI to enforce the ban. Reports suggest that Tencent has lost $34 Billion in market value since the India banned PUBG Mobile and in an emailed statement to the Business Insider, the company said that they were looking forward to engaging with the Indian authorities to clarify their long established policy and action in protecting user data in hoped to ensure the continued availability of their products in the India.