The Play Store has more than hundreds of millions of apps. These applications have several features that provide essentiality to the user. Some apps do a great deal for the user, and some are very tricky. The playstore is a large place where anyone could get just to attractive apps and fall towards malicious threats. Over time, many apps have been banned from the Play store for their inability to provide or due to many bugs and those that didn’t update frequently. Google had been very careful after the various viruses that took over android since its inception. Google had failed over with its automated apps approval system and then relaunched it with an integrated approval system in late 2016.
Just like that, the Indian play store isn’t any new to app bans. Recently, the September app ban was a trendy conversation all over on social media. Over 59 Chinese apps were banned that day, from community apps to service apps. Including PUBG, the fan-favorite game. After the ban, more investigative searches were developed. Google established close contact with the Ministry of Information and Technology even to scale the ban of more apps that could potentially harm the users. This led to the ban of even more Chinese apps, thus trying to settle a political feud. But yet, this doesn’t mean that the ban was only for those Chinese apps or other foreign apps; it also covered the Indian apps (1).
The Indian Play store is also loaded with malicious apps. Apps like service apps, financial apps, and many more. The intent of MEITY to search and ban these apps was to prevent privacy in the nation. This was growing overhand, and it was not easy to cover it up. Thus, with both parties’ help, such malicious apps were removed with that moment’s effect. With the ban implied on certain short-term loan apps, the fast track mission to enable users’ security and prevent the consumers’ financial exploitation was also considered. The current ban also expands to set up regulations that could help safeguard the consumer form’s ability to be taken to problematic occurrences. Thus with the current app ban, the future of more defensive alliances will be set up for better application stability and user experience.
Banning the Violators
Google has banned services from the Play Store that offer predatory personal loans. The change was revealed quietly on the ‘restricted content’ policy page of the company, which now lists high-interest loan services among the types of apps no longer permitted in the store, including certain payday loan apps, peer-to-peer loan access, title loans, and the like. Many financial apps, including those offered by banks and third-party apps used for investment, money management, budgeting, and the like, are available through the Google Play Store. Google also allows applications related to car loans, student loans, mortgages, and revolving credit, including things such as credit cards (2).
However, in the future, the company no longer allows personal loan applications for loans with a 36 percent or higher APR; also, the company requires applications to disclose the loan APRs of the service, as well as the minimum and maximum repayment period for the products and an example of the total cost of a loan. Google also bans applications that offer personal loans that have to be paid back in full within 60 days, often referred to as short-term or payday loans. Many apps are covered by the restriction, including those that merely links to third-party lenders offering them. These apps join the growing list of the restricted content on the Google Play Store.
Google says the following in these terms and conditions: “Personal loans are defined as lending money on a non-recurring basis from an individual, organization or entity to an individual consumer, not for the intent of raising finance of a fixed asset or for learning. Consumers of personal loans require information on the quality, characteristics, fees, repayment schedule, risks, and benefits of credit products to make informed decisions as to whether to take out the loan”. As per a Reuters evaluation of such services and much more than a dozen consumers, at least ten Indian loaning apps on Google’s Play Store, which have been downloaded millions of times, breached Google regulations on debt repayment lengths designed to protect vulnerable borrowers. After Reuters flagged Google that they were violating its ban on offering personal loans requiring full repayment in 60 days or less, four apps were taken down from the Play Store, where most Indians download phone apps (3).
Why were they banned?
10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money, and Extra Mudra were some of the apps banned from the play store for their false and predatory conditions. On January 7, the fourth app, StuCred, was allowed to return to the Google Play store after removing the 30-day loan offer. It denied having any unscrupulous practices involved (4). As per 15 debtors and screenshots of loan details from all six apps shared with Reuters, at least six other apps stay available in the store that offers debt repayment lengths, or tenures, sometimes as low as seven days. According to the fifteen borrowers, some of these apps apply steep processing charges, as high as Rs 2000 on loans of less than Rs 10000 with tenures of 30 days or less. According to their loan details, borrowers can pay interest rates as high as 60 percent per week in real terms with other fees, including one-off registration costs (5).
The four applications found to have violated the repayment length policy of Google: 10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money, StuCred, and Extra Mudra were 30-day advertising loan tenures on their applications and had been downloaded at least 1.5 million times in total (6). On December 18, Reuters flagged those apps on Google, and within four days, they were taken down from the Play Store in India. According to the fifteen borrowers and their screenshots, several other apps say that the minimum repayment duration they offer is over three months on their Play Store listings. Still, their tenures often range from seven to fifteen days in reality. Apps like CashBean, iCredit, CashKey, RupeeFly, and RupeePlus, which have been downloaded almost 12 million times in total, are those apps (7).
A history of bans
A notice banning 59 Chinese apps was issued by the Government of India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT in June last year. Since then, several such notices have been issued by the government banning more Chinese apps that were found to be “prejudicial to India’s sovereignty and integrity, defense of India, state security and public order.” MeitY banned 43 additional apps in its latest notice, including AliExpress and Lalamove, bringing up to 267 banned apps to the tally. India may be the first nation to ban Chinese apps, but it is not the first to raise privacy and security concerns. Robert O’Brien, the US national security advisor, said that all Chinese companies function as arms of the Chinese Communist Party to advance its ideological and geopolitical agendas. In the words of O’Brien, the CPC collects your most private information from your words, actions, purchases, whereabouts, health records, social media posts, texts, and maps of friends, family, and acquaintances in your network. It is not the CPC’s telecom hardware or software profits after it is your data. To obtain that data, they use ‘backdoors’ built into the products. It’s micro-targeting (8).
The ban was indeed essential for the integrity of data if the facts were all true. Such a case has only happened once, and since then, MEITY has put up hands over the ban of apps. They continue to conduct a thorough search of such harmful apps that deviate the public data to scrutiny and thus sell their information to top dealers on the dark web who might use it for their scandalous privileges. The sector has always been prone to data breaches, and through several propagated viruses through external software, one does not sit quietly after a huge scandal like this. The nation had gone through several phases of data breaches and always tried to prevent the next one.
Similarly, the ban of the mentioned apps had nothing to do with data breaches but the human breach. The exploitation of financial stability and risking the consumer into early due payments is the main reason as to why the ban was ordered. Such bans had huge effects on the debtor’s mental stability who had to repay it according to terms and conditions, thus taking extreme steps over it. The recent case of suicide in Tamil Nadu further pressed upon the importance of banning such apps. With Google controlling the issue themselves, the government has no other choice but to encourage this order. Many apps have had to face this embarrassing situation, and some escaped it through immediate recoveries.
Such exercises are always essential for the betterment of the people and their privacy.