Huawei and its hardware have borne the brunt of market access restrictions due to the perceived threat to countries’ national security, but now it is the turn of China’s software makers and their services.
India has decided to ban 59 of China’s biggest mobile apps, including TikTok and Alibaba’s UC Browser, with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology alleging they are breaching the privacy of Indian users and mining their data.
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India [ . . . ] is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” it said.
Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating after the death of 20 Indian soldiers earlier this month in a brutal brawl with People’s Liberation Army troops. Turning on China’s tech industry may be one means of retaliation.
While it’s unclear what India can do about apps already downloaded, like the more than 200m copies of TikTok being used, their removal from Google and Apple stores will bring their rapid growth to a shuddering halt. Chinese companies will be summoned to answer accusations they are “surreptitiously stealing data”, with officials declining to outline how long the process will take.
China is obviously complaining, but will gain little sympathy abroad given its own “Great Wall” restrictions on web apps and services. A tech tit-for-tat would be pointless, given the lack of Indian penetration of the Chinese market. Lex says the fallout could come elsewhere, such as in India’s pharmaceuticals sector, with drugmakers relying on China for well over two-thirds of raw ingredients.
In other developments today, Taiwan is looking to tighten regulation of Chinese investment in its companies over fears that Beijing could obtain access to sensitive data and technologies, while Australia is recruiting 500 additional cyber spies and making its largest investment in digital security after a breakdown in diplomatic relations with Beijing.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Wirecard’s whales
The now-insolvent German fintech Wirecard relied on a small number of customers for the majority of its genuine sales, according to an internal company spreadsheet uncovered by Dan McCrum. Britain’s financial watchdog has lifted a ban on the payment activities of Wirecard’s UK arm, restoring services for millions of customers.
2. Brands withdraw ads, newspaper withdraws news
The Reddit social media platform is banning a controversial forum for Donald Trump supporters, following a review of its content moderation policies regarding hate speech. Advertisers don’t want to be associated with toxic content and almost a third of the world’s biggest brands will suspend spending on social media or are likely to do so, according to a survey. Meanwhile, the New York Times says it is pulling its content from Apple’s News service and Facebook is changing the way news stories are ranked in its News Feed to prioritise original reporting.
3. Uber eyes Postmates
Uber is preparing an offer to buy food delivery start-up Postmates, weeks after it was beaten by Just Eat Takeaway in a race to acquire larger rival Grubhub. A tie-up would hasten the long-awaited consolidation of the heavily lossmaking US food delivery market.
4. Prospering in the pandemic: gaming
A clutch of mobile gaming studios, many privately held, have enjoyed the real windfall from the coronavirus lockdown, reports Tim Bradshaw in the latest in our series on those prospering in the pandemic. Mobile gaming revenues, which already dwarf spending on PC and console titles, are now set to top $100bn this year.
5. OneWeb bidders include Bharti
Bharti Enterprises, one of the world’s biggest telecom service providers, has emerged as a key private investor in the UK-backed consortium bidding for the collapsed satellite operator OneWeb. Lex says OneWeb offers a cut-price alternative to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system.
Tech tools — Corsair lighting towers
My son’s gaming set-up includes a green-backlit keyboard and a transparent PC case illuminated by red LEDs, but there seems to be no limit to how much you can pimp out your gaming experience with lighting. Peripherals maker Corsair today launched these Smart Lighting Towers to add extra ambience. Basically LEDs on a stick, the two aluminium towers each have 46 fully customisable RGB LEDs and more towers can be added if needed. The two-pack costs £130. Tom’s Hardware has a review.