India plans new security testing for smartphones, crackdown on pre-installed apps

Source: The post is based on the article “India plans new security testing for smartphones, crackdown on pre-installed apps” published in The Hindu on 15th March 2023

What is the News?

The government of 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.

What are the new security rules the Government of India is planning to bring?

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 uninstallation option and new models will be checked for compliance by a lab authorized by the Bureau of Indian Standards agency.

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

What is the rationale behind the new rule?

Government is of the view that pre-installed applications in the majority of smartphones pose serious privacy and information security issues which can be exploited by foreign nations, including China. 

Note: Chinese players like Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo dominate the Indian smartphone market with over 70% share.

What will be the impact of these new rules?

Firstly, experts have said that some pre-installed apps like the camera are critical to user experience and the government must make a distinction between these and non-essential ones when imposing screening rules.

Secondly, more testing could prolong approval timelines for smartphones. Currently, it takes about 21 weeks for a smartphone and its parts to be tested by the government agency for safety compliance.

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