Alibaba’s UC Web Browser has come under the scrutiny of government as part of investigations against Chinese companies over data theft. The company may be banned in India if found guilty. Reports say UC Browser is the second most used web browser in India after Google Chrome and leads mobile phone segment.
UC Web, the browser owned by Chinese internet giant Alibaba, has come under the scrutiny of the government as part of investigations against Chinese companies over data theft. If found guilty of stealing data of Indian users, the company may be banned in the country, a top official in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said.
“Complaints have been received against UC Web Browser that it sends mobile data of Indian users to servers in China. The matter is being looked into,” the official said.
UC Web Browser claimed to have over 100 million monthly active users in India as per a report last year while globally, its user base is nearly 420 million.
When contacted on the matter by TOI, a spokesperson for the company said that it takes security and privacy very seriously, though adding that “it is common practice for IT companies to place servers all around the globe to provide better service to its users… We will not do anything to breach the trust of our users.”
“At UC Web, we take security and privacy very seriously and work hard to comply with local regulations of each region we operate in… We have strong measures in place to encrypt the data while we transmit it,” the spokesperson said, adding that the company is yet to any notice or intimation from the government on the matter.
The spokesperson, however, defended the decision to collect user data: “It is also standard industry practice to collect user information and data in necessary scenarios to provide users with localised services. We take necessary authorization from users to collect this data. Our systems are protected by an end-user licensing agreement which protect the interest of our users.”
The ministry official said that there fears that data is being stolen even when the app has been uninstalled by a user. “There are complaints that even if a user has uninstalled it or cleaned browsing data, the browser retains control of DNS of users device,” the official requesting anonymity, said.
The matter, first highlighted through findings of University of Toronto, is now being looked into by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Hyderabad. It is doing a technical investigation into the allegations made in the University of Toronto report which had claimed “several major privacy and security vulnerabilities that would seriously expose users of UC Browser to surveillance and other privacy violations”.
As per Stat-Counter report at the end of June 2017, UC Browser is second most used web browser in India after Google Chrome and leads mobile phone segment with 48.66 per cent market share.
UC Browser is part of Alibaba’s mobile business group. Alibaba is a major investor in the payment bank firm Paytm and its parent company One97. Besides Paytm, Alibaba has invested in e-commerce firm Snapdeal as well.