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Google says India antitrust order poses threat to national security

Google warned on Friday that if the Indian antitrust watchdog’s ruling is allowed to progress it would result in devices getting expensive in the South Asian market and lead to proliferation of unchecked apps that will pose threats for individual and national security, escalating its concerns over the future of Android in the key overseas region.

"Predatory apps that expose users to financial fraud, data theft and a number of other dangers abound on the internet, both from India and other countries. While Google holds itself accountable for the apps on Play Store and scans for malware as well compliance with local laws, the same checks may not be in place for apps sideloaded from other sources,” the company wrote in a blog post, titled “Heart of the Matter.”

The Competition Commission of India has slapped two fines against Google, alleging the Android-maker abused the Play Store’s dominant position in the country and required Android device makers to pre-install its entire Google Mobile Suite.

The Indian watchdog has ordered Google to make a series of changes to its business practices that analysts say could topple the company’s financial viability in the market. Google has appealed against the directions in Indian courts.

"Google has partnered deeply with India in the last several years of its exciting digital transformation. However, at a time when only half of India’s population is connected, the directions in the CCI’s order strikes a blow at the ecosystem-wide efforts to accelerate digital adoption in the country," the company wrote in the blog post.

Google also warned that if the Indian antitrust watchdog’s orders were to be followed, app developers will have to pay higher costs.

“In a forked Android environment, small developers will be forced to prioritize which of the various incompatible Android ‘forks’ they write and maintain apps for, as their costs will increase with each additional version they support,” the company wrote.

“They will no longer have the level playing field they have today with Android, and larger developers, who can support a wider range of incompatible forks, will be able to dominate the market based on their scale, rather than the quality of their product.”

India is Google’s largest market by users. Google’s mobile operating system powers 97% of the country’s 600 million smartphones, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Google in 2020 pledged to invest $10 billion in the South Asian market over the coming years. It has already financed up to $5.5 billion in the local telecom giants Jio Platforms and Airtel.