The Indian government is cracking down on UC Browser — a platform owned by Chinese internet giant Alibaba — for allegedly sending user data to remote servers in China. When a mobile device is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, details including IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) and IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) are being sent to the remote server, Business Standard reported. A government lab in Hyderabad is said to be investigating the matter.
This security caveat had been reported by the University of Toronto in 2015. However, no action was taken. And UC Browser went on to capture over 50 percent of India’s mobile browser market, leading even Google Chrome. It is also the sixth most downloaded Android app in India, and crossed 100 million monthly active users earlier this year. It is believed that India’s growing geo-political tensions with China would have led to this crackdown on Chinese apps, services, and even device manufacturers. ALSO READ: Xiaomi, Gionee, Oppo among Chinese manufactures to get government notice over data privacy
Last week, the government sent notices to 21 smartphone makers, particularly Chinese brands viz, Xiaomi, Gionee, Oppo, Vivo, for breach of data privacy. These manufacturers have been asked to give a “detailed, structured written response” on how they secure data and ensure its safety and security, a government order noted. August 28 has been set as the deadline for submission. India imports heavily from China when it comes to mobile and telecom products. In 2016-2017 alone, imports amounted to $3.7 billion, according to a report. Some fractions in the government are increasingly unhappy with India’s growing dependence on China. ALSO READ: How Alibaba is slowly yet surely expanding its footprint in India
Alibaba, which owns UC Browser as well as UC News (one of the most popular news apps on Google Play Store), has earmarked Rs 2 billion to build UCWeb in India over the next two years, by tapping into the potential of user-generated content. UCWeb has even partnered with leading Indian film studio, Balaji Motion Pictures, to distribute exclusive content about their releases. And UCWeb’s 9Apps has launched a startup fund worth $20 million to help independent developers in India. Evidently, India is a key market for UC. But the government crackdown may not augur well for the service.