Battlegrounds Mobile India: BGMI Data Transfer Reports Cause Uproar
According to IGN India, BGMI data was being exchanged with multiple servers, including one with the IP address 22.214.171.124 which as per multiple online IP directories belongs to China Mobile Communications Corporation.
Arjun Sha, a writer for Beebom, also posted on Twitter stating that his Pi-hole (a device that can be used as a network monitoring tool) had intercepted connections to when he launched BGMI. The registrant of this domain is also in China. Proxima Beta Pte. Limited is a Singapore-based company within the Tencent group.
AFK Gaming was unable to independently reproduce these results, however, we did find that BGMI data was being exchanged with an IP belonging to a Tencent Entity based in Singapore.
BGMI Is Exchanging Data With an IP that belongs to Aceville Pte Ltd, a Tencent Subsidiary
Upon installing a data packet sniffer app on an Android phone, we were able to find out which IP addresses our device communicated with. We tested this on the early access version of Battlegrounds Mobile India downloaded through the Google Play Store. The data packet sniffer app was set up to record all IP addresses that the BGMI app communicates with after which we played multiple matches.
After multiple attempts (on 21 & 22 June 2021) we cross-referenced the logs we collected with the Whois registry and discovered that data was being exchanged with various IP addresses including 126.96.36.199 and those belonging to Google, Microsoft, Krafton Inc.
A Whois search of the 188.8.131.52 IP address revealed that it belonged to Aceville Pte Ltd.
Aceville Pte Ltd is a Singapore based company within the Tencent group. It has previously made an investment in Flipkart and reportedly became the second largest shareholder in the company with a 5.34% stake.
We could not spot any instances of data being transferred to any Chinese servers including those belonging to China Mobile Communications Corporation or Proxima Beta Pte. Limited.
AFK Gaming cannot confirm whether the data being transferred is user data or some other type of game data. As of now, it is unknown what type of data is being exchanged with these servers via the BGMI app. It is also unclear if the IP addresses that this data is being sent to actually belong to game servers.
According to the terms of service for Battlegrounds Mobile India, players' personal information will only be stored on servers located in India and Singapore. However, it also states that Krafton could transfer this data to other countries if they are required to do so by law.
Tencent’s History With PUBG Mobile in India
PUBG Corporation is the South Korean entity that owns the PlayerUnknown BattleGrounds intellectual property. The company is a subsidiary of Krafton Inc, which owns other subsidiaries like Bluehole Studio which was responsible for developing the PC version of the game. The mobile version of the game was developed and published by Tencent worldwide.
In September 2020, PUBG Corporation took over the publishing rights for the PUBG Mobile franchise from Tencent in India. This was largely seen as an attempt to distance the game from the Chinese conglomerate.
There have been multiple calls for a ban on Battlegrounds Mobile India despite the launch of its early access version, this week. On 17 June 2021, Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary-General of Confederation of All India Traders urged Ravi Shankar Prasad (Minister of Law and Justice of India) and MeitY to ban BGMI.
On 2 June 2021, Arvind Dharmapuri who is a Member of Parliament (MP) from Nizamabad, Telangana, had reportedly written a letter to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics & Information Technology, requesting him to look into the matter. Ashok Nete (MP from Maharashtra) had also raised concerns about user privacy and data theft by Krafton and Tencent. Furthermore, he demanded "strict action against (that) Chinese company" in his tweet. Ninong Ering, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh, had also called for a ban on Battlegrounds Mobile India, calling it a "Chinese deception".
Following this, the hashtag ‘#BanBattlegroundsPUBG’ was trending on Twitter India with several users requesting the Indian Government to ban Battlegrounds Mobile India’s relaunch.
Earlier this week, an RTI filed by Dr. Gaurav Tyagi, an assistant professor at JNU affirmed that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will not preemptively ban Battlegrounds Mobile India and that the app would only be banned upon release if it infringed on the sovereignty and integrity of India as per law.