The Indian government has banned TikTok, WeChat, and numerous other Chinese apps it claims pose a threat to national security.
The decision comes amid border clashes between the two superpowers left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead, along with an unknown number of Chinese soldiers.
Follow the data
India's Ministry of Information Technology said it was banning 59 Chinese apps after receiving "many complaints from various sources" about apps that were "stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner."
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures."
Among the apps banned are microblogging platform Weibo, strategy game Clash of Kings, Alibaba's UC Browser, Baidu's map and translate apps, numerous camera filters, and e-commerce apps Club Factory and Shein.
The Indian government claims the apps sent user data to China, where it is accessed by the Chinese state - an allegation many of the companies deny.
"TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government," Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok India, said in a statement.
"Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity."
With India mulling a data residency law that would legislate the keeping of user data in the country, and it home to millions of the 59 apps' customers, many have data center deployments in India.
TikTok in particular is huge in India - with app analytics firm Sensor Tower estimating some 611 million lifetime downloads of the software in the country, accounting for 30.3 percent of the total. Prior to the ban, it is thought to have had 120m active users in the country.
Parent company ByteDance planned to invest $1bn in India and build a data center in the country. It previously said that it stored user data in third-party data centers in the US and Singapore.
It is unclear what the interim ban means for ByteDance's data center plans, and the company was not immediately available for a comment.
Tencent, meanwhile, opened a data center in India back in early 2018, followed by another Mumbai site later that year. Its cloud services are currently available in the country, although its WeChat messaging platform is now banned - but while the service has 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, it has always struggled in India. Part of the reason the app failed in India, WeChat claimed in 2013, was due to a widespread smear campaign at the time that said the government would ban the app.
Also banned today are Tencent's QQ music streaming service, newsfeed, media player, and QQ Launcher. Tencent's older QQ messaging platform was also banned.
Alibaba equally operates several cloud data centers in India, opening its first facility in Mumbai back in 2018. Its cloud services, and its e-commerce platform, are currently not banned in the country - but its UC Browser is. While the platform was declining in popularity, back in 2018 the browser was more popular than Google Chrome in India.
Baidu has yet to open its own data centers in India, and has a smaller presence in the country - with one of its few successful apps a Face Emoji keyboard that does not appear to be banned.
But the company earlier this year appeared to be focusing more on the country, with CEO Robin Li making his first ever visit to India in January.
And then things changed
Relations between India and China have long been strained, but have come under renewed pressure in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, a military clash along a disputed border led to the worst violence between the world's two most populous countries in five decades. While India denies it, independent military analysts believe that Chinese troops have taken control of roughly 23 square miles of Indian territory in the past two months, and satellite pictures show a major military build up at the border - possibly a Chinese response to Indian infrastructure developments in and near disputed land.
"The likely military aim of China is to stop the development of our border infrastructure in Ladakh that threatens Aksai Chin and National Highway (NH) 219, particularly in Galwan, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso sectors, and depending on our reaction, to be prepared for a limited border skirmish," Lt Gen H S Panag wrote in India's The Print.
"Neither country wants war, hence diplomacy has to be given the first priority to restore status quo ante 1 April 2020. However, if diplomacy does not work, then India should be prepared for border skirmishes and even a limited war."
A smaller conflict in 2017 led to Indian troops being banned from many of the apps that are now blocked across the whole country. Huawei is also expected to be blocked from 5G deployments in the country.