Alibaba backed UC Browser is facing a possible ban in India, after complaints of data stealing surfaced against them. This is the certainly not the first time that UC Browser has been accused of stealing Indian’s user’s data, but this is the for the first time that Govt. officials are threatening to ban it in India.
If the ban happens, then it would be certainly a new low for Chinese companies operating in India.
What is the truth?
Scrutiny of UC Browser has been initiated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, as they have received complaint that data is being ‘stolen’ by UC Browser, and transferred to Chinese servers, without any information to the user.
An unnamed Govt. official said, “Complaints have been received against UC Browser that it sends mobile data of Indian users to servers in China. The matter is being looked into..”
The primary complaint is that, even after a user has uninstalled the app, information is still being transferred to Chinese servers, without the user’s consent.
This is indeed an alarming accusation.
That official said, “There are complaints that even if a user has uninstalled it or cleaned browsing data, the browser retains control of DNS of users device,”
UC Web has denied these accusations, and responded diplomatically: “At UC Web, we take security and privacy very seriously and work hard to comply with local regulations of each region we operate in. We have strong measures in place to encrypt the data while we transmit it,”
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They haven’t acknowledged the fact that Govt. of India is investigating their servers for possible data theft.
Most of the companies into digital space have their own servers to store their data, and for possible data analytics based operations and decision making.
Now, if a company like Alibaba and UC Web are based in China, then it is obvious that their servers would be based in China, and information from all their users, including Indians, would be stored over there.
UC Web spokesperson said, “..it is common practice for IT companies to place servers all around the globe to provide better service to its users. We will not do anything to breach the trust of our users.”, adding, “It is also standard industry practice to collect user information and data in necessary scenarios to provide users with localised services. We take necessary authorization from users to collect this data. Our systems are protected by an end-user licensing agreement which protect the interest of our users.”
The accusations of data theft were taken seriously after a report from University of Toronto said, “several major privacy and security vulnerabilities that would seriously expose users of UC Browser to surveillance and other privacy violations”.
Now, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) along with officials from IT Ministry are looking into this matter.
In 2014, UC Web Browser was hailed as India’s most popular mobile browser; when they reported that they have crossed 500 million users, triggering 382% growth.
In 2015, UC Web was accused of stealing users’ data, and sending them to China; an accusation which is now threatening their very existence in India.