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India’s Free Fire app ban causes company behind the game to lose $16 billion

Over security concerns, India has barred access to 54 mobile applications, mostly Chinese but also the Free Fire game of Singapore-based Sea Ltd, according to official sources on Tuesday.

Since political tensions with China first rose in 2020 following a border conflict, India has banned a total of 321 applications, with the former first banning 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok.

Sea, whose backers include Chinese gaming giant Tencent, which owns 18.7% of the firm, announced on Tuesday that it is a Singapore company dedicated to preserving its customers’ privacy and security in India and throughout the world. ‘We comply with Indian laws and regulations, and we do not transfer to or store any data of our Indian users in China’, it said in a statement to Reuters.

Tencent did not reply to a request for comment right away. Sea’s stock was up 4% above $134 in premarket trade in the United States on Tuesday. Following news of the latest restriction, Sea’s stock dropped 18.4% in New York on Monday, wiping off more than $16 billion in market value.

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According to one individual who attended the meeting, when asked about the prohibition, Sea informed shareholders that the company was ‘working through it’.

Tencent Xriver, Barcode Scanner – QR Code Scan, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, and Viva Video Editor are among the other applications that have been blocked.

India thinks that user data was being transmitted to Chinese servers via the applications, as per a government source who requested anonymity in accordance with regulations. Such collection would allow the data to be mined, collated, analysed and profiled, potentially by ‘elements hostile to the sovereignty and integrity of India and for activities detrimental to national security’, the source added.

The prohibition is bad news for Sea, whose e-commerce software Shopee is already being boycotted by Indian vendors who accuse it of unfair business methods. The organisation secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal stated that the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a trade association, had protested to authorities about Shopee and now they are ‘surprised’ that the app is not on the prohibited list of India. The dominating player in Southeast Asia, Sea’s Shopee, increased its scope in 2021 across Latin America, Europe and India.


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