US FCC wants Indian government to keep an eye on these Chinese apps


India’s proactive approach to data security and its ban on apps like TikTok should serve as a model for other countries, says Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In an exclusive interview with Economic Times, Carr urged India to take a closer look at BabyBus, a Chinese app developer whose children’s games are hugely popular but raise concerns about data privacy.“India should take a hard look at BabyBus and their operations in the country in order to keep up the good work they have done when it comes to keeping their people safe from data-hungry Chinese apps,” he said in an exclusive telephonic interview.

‘Dangerous’ Chinese apps

Data privacy firm Incogni identified three BabyBus apps – Baby Panda World: Kids Games, BabyBus Kids: Video&Game World, and Baby Panda’s Kids Play – among the top 11 most data-hungry child-targeted apps globally. A Sensor Tower report revealed that India and Indonesia accounted for 60% of BabyBus app downloads in Asia during Q3 2023. In all, BabyBus provides customised free digital content primarily for children up to the age of eight through over 200 gaming apps.
Even in the US, BabyBus has faced scrutiny. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned the company about potential violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Google briefly removed BabyBus apps from its Play Store following the warning, but they were reinstated after the issues were resolved.
BabyBus app removed by Google in the US after FCC ‘warning’
Carr said BabyBus has had a shady history in the US. “About 10 years ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had flagged concerns about its data sharing methods and had brought up the importance of it considering it was a child-focused app,” he told ET.
In December 2014, FTC sent a letter to BabyBus, warning that the company may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. It noted that the child-directed applications appeared to collect precise geolocation information about users and that the company does not get parents’ consent before collecting children’s personal information, which would appear to violate the COPPA Rule. Post this FTC warning, Google removed the BabyBus application from its Play Store.
Focus on TikTok, But Smaller Players Matter Too
While the US has banned TikTok on federal devices, Carr believes a stronger stance is needed. He lauds India’s ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps and hopes for similar action in the US this year. He emphasizes the importance of addressing both security and foreign influence concerns related to such apps.
Apart from data security, Carr commends India’s efforts in providing universal access to internet and telecommunication services. He sees this as a challenge faced by many countries, including the US, and expresses interest in learning from India’s experiences during a planned visit later this year.
India’s leadership in data security and its commitment to internet access are noteworthy. Taking a critical look at apps like BabyBus and exploring further restrictions on potentially risky apps like TikTok are crucial steps to protect citizens’ privacy and national security. Carr’s praise for India’s proactive approach highlights the importance of international cooperation in addressing these complex issues.


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