WeChat, the Chinese messaging platform launched in India by ibibo, is under the Intelligence Bureau scanner due to security concerns about its Chinese origins, according to a new report.
The messenger, an internet based text and voice messaging app, had recently began its operations in India. WeChat also has been engaged in a huge marketing campaign in India, with primetime TV spots being aired on all major TV channels and through online channels like Youtube.
According to the report in The Hindu Business Line, the intelligence agency has told the National Security Adviser that such messaging platforms were raising new cyber threats. The government is also in talks with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Telecom to decide on whether such services need to be blocked, especially with its Chinese origin.
This is not the first time a messaging app has got into trouble with the Indian Agencies, previously Blackberry was in a similar situation with the Indian government. The Canada-based company had denied the Indian Government access to the Blackberry user’s data, stored in secure servers. The Government has warned Blackberry of dire consequences if the access to user data was not provided, following which Blackberry agreed to set up a server in Mumbai to avoid being banned.
Market regulator SEBI were also concerned about the risks messaging apps pose for the financial markets, especially with the encoded pattern the messaging apps transmit the messages with, which make them difficult to track. The regulator felt that messaging services were being used by manipulators to spread sensitive information about their target stocks.
Last year the the government has said that “Potential threats exist in telecom networks irrespective of the sources like telecom gear manufactured in China or supplied by some other vendors.”
Following this statement the government had issued guidelines to be followed before inducting telecom equipment into its network. The government has also set up a framework to deal with “potential threats” by the induction of Chinese telecom equipment. The Department of Telecom had also mulled banning Chinese telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE from government contracts over similar concerns.
Security concerns about using services and equipment being sold or manufactured by Chinese companies in India, being potentially used to snoop on India’s communication networks, has been a concern for the Indian government for some time now.
With the recent PRISM expose and projects like central monitoring system being implemented by the Indian Government, it is a well known fact that the Government obviously wants to watch and keep track on our digital presence.
In spite of this, the concerns of the Indian Government regarding technologies with Chinese origin or links seem justified, especially with the strained relations and border troubles the two countries share.