Mitron App Suspended from Google Play Store, But Other 'Mitrons' Have Spawned Already

Shouvik Das

Mitron app, which recently went viral by claiming to be India’s answer to the China-based TikTok, has been suspended from the Google Play Store, states a report by CNBC-TV18. According to the report, the Mitron app has been suspended for violating the Spam and Minimum Functionality developer policies under the Google Play Store, although the developers behind the app can challenge the suspension if they have enough grounds to prove themselves.

However, while the ‘original’ Mitron app has been suspended, numerous others of the same nature have already spawned up on the Play Store. A quick check on Google’s app store for ‘Mitron’ shows apps like ‘Mitron Indian’ by Tools LLC,’ Mitron - India’s Short Video Platform’ by Vee Developer and ‘Mitron’ by Socialeee. Each of these apps seem to have followed in ShopKiller e-Commerce’s footsteps by targeting the anti-China and local-made product sentiments. All of these apps were introduced in late May, and have similar reviews praising them for being ‘Indian’. Their interfaces are also cloned from TikTok, hence reiterating the same cloning format that was followed by the initial Mitron app, which skyrocketed in popularity and registered over 5 million downloads in a short span of time.

Earlier, our investigation of the Mitron app had found that not only does the app lack a privacy policy, but is in fact a hastily repackaged version of TicTic – a Pakistani clone of Bytedance’s TikTok. According to Irfan Sheikh, founder and chief executive of TicTic’s developer Qboxus, the promoters behind Mitron had simply purchased TicTic’s source code via CodeCanyon for $34 (~Rs 2,600), and uploaded it on the Google Play Store in India with their own logo. Every other bit, from the interface to how the app was operated, remained the same. This itself signified that the app was far from being ‘made in India’, and with a complete lack of privacy policies, made for a fraudulent app looking to cash in on a prevalent sentiment in the country.

Google's Spam and Minimum Functionality developer policy, under which the Mitron app was flagged, says, "At a minimum, apps should provide users with a basic degree of functionality and a respectful user experience. Apps that crash, exhibit other behaviour that is not consistent with a functional user experience, or that serve only to spam users or Google Play are not apps that expand the catalog in a meaningful way." On top of its functionality aspect, other reports online have also stated that the erstwhile Mitron app had numerous security gaffes, none of which were addressed in the time span through which it came under spotlight.

CNBC-TV18’s report states that prior to being suspended, Mitron had updated their privacy policy with a document that was incidentally linked to California’s privacy laws, hence indicating that it had no effect whatsoever in India. As such, there is no reason why a respectable app that claimed to have been ‘made in India’ would have a privacy policy linked to USA’s laws. As of now, while the Mitron app has indeed been blocked, the numerous other clones that have spawned off it remain intact, and no action has been noticed about them from Google’s end.