India is planning to impose new security rules on smartphone makers like Apple, forcing them to allow the removal of pre-installed apps and mandating the screening of OS updates, according to a report from Reuters.
India plans to tighten security rules for smartphones, including removal of pre-installed apps
As detailed by the report, the move comes amid concerns over spying and the abuse of user data, with explicit references to the risk from China. As a result, smartphone makers will need to include an uninstall option for pre-installed apps, and new models will be checked for compliance by a lab authorized by the Bureau of Indian Standards agency.
Apple already allows many of its own apps to be deleted, but core apps like Messages, Photos, and Phone cannot be removed, only hidden in the App Library. India’s IT ministry is reportedly considering the rules to address potential security vulnerabilities, as pre-installed apps can be a weak point that foreign nations could exploit.
Since a border clash with China in 2022, India has banned more than 300 Chinese apps in the country, including TikTok, and has intensified scrutiny of investments by Chinese firms. According to an unnamed official, “It’s a matter of national security.”
According to government documents seen by Reuters, a closed-door meeting was attended by representatives from Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple, and Vivo to discuss the plan. The government is giving smartphone makers a year to comply with the rules when they come into effect, but there are concerns that they could delay launch timeframes for new smartphones and lead to business losses. Currently, it takes about 21 weeks for a smartphone and its parts to be tested by India’s IT ministry for safety compliance.
The new rules are part of a wider push by India to tighten security measures for its tech sector. In February, it introduced a new set of IT rules that require social media companies to appoint grievance officers to deal with user complaints and remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google have pushed back against the rules, arguing that they could be used to stifle free speech and violate user privacy.
Overall, the new security rules are designed to address concerns over potential security vulnerabilities in pre-installed apps on smartphones and to protect against potential foreign exploitation. However, there are concerns that they could lead to delays in launching new smartphones and business losses for smartphone makers.