MeitY asks Google Play Store to take down 54 apps including Free Fire

This is in addition to nearly 225 apps banned by MeitY including TikTok, PUBG, UC News, Lalamove, and others — a total of nearly 279 since 2020.
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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has come out with a new list of 54 apps to be removed from Google’s Play Store, citing security concerns. These apps include Garena Free Fire - Illuminate, though Garena Free Fire MAX continues to be available on the Play Store. 

Free Fire is a battle royale game developed and published Garena, which is owned by Singapore headquartered internet company Sea Limited. According to the company’s website, Free Fire was the most downloaded mobile game in 2019 and 2020 was among the highest-grossing mobile games in Latin America, Southeast Asia and India in 2020. Sea Limited also owns and operates discount-driven ecommerce platform Shopee.

Free Fire isn’t the first battle royale game to be banned by the government citing security concerns. MeitY had previously banned the popular mobile-based battle royale game PUBG published by South Korean game developer Krafton in September 2020, as part of a list of 118 apps. Krafton re-entered the Indian market in May 2021 with the launch of Battlegrounds Mobile India.  

“On receipt of the interim order passed under Section 69A of the IT Act, following established process, we have notified the affected developers and have temporarily blocked access to the apps that remained available on the Play Store in India,” said Google in a statement. 

Section 69A of the IT Act allows the centre to block access to an intermediary (in this case the apps) in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, among other concerns. 

As part of the first set of apps banned by the government, location of storage of individual data by the app and in-app permissions were a part of the criteria to evaluate whether these violated Section 69A of the IT Act. 

Other apps which were a part of the list of 54 apps banned today include re-packaged or new versions of Beauty Camera – Sweet Selfie HD. Sweet Selfie was a part of the first list of 59 apps banned by MeitY in June 2020, which also included the widely popular short video app, TikTok. AppLock, Tencent Xriver, Nice video Baidu were also a part of the list released today.

With this, the total number of apps banned by the government has reached nearly 279 since 2020. 

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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