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India plans to force smartphone makers to allow removal of pre-installed apps

IT ministry is considering these new rules amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data, says senior government official

Reuters New Delhi Published 15.03.23, 01:22 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

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

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


India’s IT ministry is considering these new rules amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data, said a senior government official, one of the two people, declining to be named as the information is not yet public.

“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,” the official added.

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

Globally too, many nations have imposed restrictions on the use of technology from Chinese firms such as Huawei and Hikvision on fears Beijing could use them to spy on foreign citizens. China denies these allegations.

Currently, most smartphones come with pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted, such as Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s app store GetApps, Samsung’s payment app Samsung Pay mini and iPhone maker Apple’s browser Safari.

Under the new rules, smartphone makers will have to provide an uninstall option and new models will be checked for compliance by a lab authorised by the Bureau of Indian Standards agency, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

The government is also considering mandating screening of every major operating system update before it is rolled out to consumers.

“Majority of smartphones used in India have pre-installed apps/bloatware which poses serious privacy/information security issue(s),” stated a February 8 confidential government record of an IT ministry meeting seen by Reuters.

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