Trai irate as Apple continues to block anti-pesky call app

08 Aug 2017


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has accused iPhone maker Apple of engaging in "data colonisation" in India and being "anti-consumer" by not allowing customers to pass on details about pesky calls and unwanted messages to authorities or their mobile operators.

Trai had launched the 'do not disturb' (DND) app in June last year to tackle unsolicited calls and pesky text messages. While Google's Android allows convergence of call / SMS log with the DND app, Apple's iOS does not permit this.

The matter has remained unresolved over the last one year and has now led to an attack on the American tech giant by Trai chairman R S Sharma. "While Google's Android supports our DND app, Apple has just been discussing, discussing, and discussing. They have not done anything," Sharma told The Times of India.

The DND app has the ability to procure SMS details and call records of an individual from the phone's messages column and call-log records. This would enable a customer to report the number sending unsolicited messages or making pesky calls straight to Trai from the app.

However, Apple has not allowed such a convergence on its iOS platform, leading customers of the premium device maker exasperated.

"So basically you (Apple) are violating the right of the user to willingly share his / her own data with the regulator or with any third party of his / her choice. If a customer wants to share financial transaction data with his / her bank, for getting a loan, why should it not be allowed?" Sharma said, adding, "This is what we call data colonisation."

A detailed questionnaire sent by TOI to Apple over the matter remained unanswered. However, it is understood that the company is engaged in deliberations with the regulator over the matter, the TOI report says.

Sharma said that Apple's stand is not in the interest of its customers. "They are anti-consumer and they are really not caring for their customers who could have been saved from pesky calls and unwanted messages."

The Trai chief said another issue that needs to be debated is about the rights on the data that is being generated by a customer. "There is a more fundamental question about data ownership. While data privacy and data security are very important issues, there is also a fundamental issue about data ownership over here."

He said an individual needs to have control over the data being generated by him or her, and also have the freedom to share it with whosever he/she wants to share with.

"It is my data. How can you take away my right over my own data? It is not Apple's data, it is not the data of a telephone manufacturer. My call logs or my SMS data cannot be the data of the device manufacturer," he said.

He also questioned how Apple was sharing its iCloud data with social media giants such as Facebook. "Why can't you do the same thing with Trai? You are doing this with Facebook as there may be a commercial arrangement."

Industry sources said Apple's refusal stems from the company's concerns around privacy and encryption of the information, according to TOI. "The issue could also involve Trai's app not meeting some technology protocols of Apple," said a source in the know of the development.

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