India Plans New Security Screening for Smartphones
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.
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.
India’s IT ministry is considering these new rules amid concerns about spying and abuse of user data. A senior government official said,
“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 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 like Huawei 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 must provide an uninstall option. New models will be checked for compliance by a lab authorized 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.