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India proposes new rules urging smartphones to remove pre-installed apps

India proposes new rules urging smartphones to remove pre-installed apps

Under proposed new security rules, India plans to force smartphone makers to allow the removal of pre-installed apps and mandate screening of major operating system updates. This is according to two people and a government document seen by Reuters.

The details of the new rules have not been previously reported. However, said rules could extend launch timelines in the world’s No.2 smartphone market and lead to losses in business from pre-installed apps for players. These include Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Apple.

The IT ministry of India considers these new rules amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data. Declining to be named as the information is not yet public, the report came from a senior government official, one of the two people. The official added:

“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.”

India has ramped up scrutiny of Chinese businesses. It boils down to the 2020 border clash between the neighbors, banning more than 300 Chinese apps, including TikTok. It has also intensified scrutiny of investments by Chinese firms.

In fact, many nations from all over the world have imposed restrictions on the use of technology from Chinese firms. Huawei and Hikvision stands among them. This stems from the fear that Beijing could use them to spy on foreign citizens. China denies these allegations.

Today, most smartphones come with pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has the app store GetApps, Samsung with payment app Samsung Pay mini, and iPhone maker Apple has its browser Safari.

Photo from Gabriel Freytez/Pexels

In the new rules, smartphone makers will have to provide an uninstall option. New models will also be checked for compliance by a lab authorized by the Bureau of Indian Standards agency. The report came from two people with knowledge of the plan.

One of the people said that the government also considers mandating screening of every major operating system update before it is rolled out to consumers. Moreover, according to a confidential government record of an IT ministry meeting dated February 8 seen by Reuters:

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“Majority of smartphones used in India are having pre-installed Apps/Bloatware which poses serious privacy/information security issue(s).”

In addition, the meeting record shows that the closed-door meeting was attended by representatives from Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple, and Vivo. The document added that the government has decided to give smartphone makers a year to comply once the rule comes into effect. The date for which has not been fixed yet.

The companies and India’s IT ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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