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India's telecom regulator considering legal action against Apple

It is not clear what would transpire from TRAI's legal action against Apple

  • Published: April 6, 2018 3:46 PM IST
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Apple and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are locking heads once again over the development of an anti-spam application. India’s telecom regulator is now considering taking legal action against the iPhone maker for its delay in taking necessary steps to support the development of an anti-spam that will work on iOS. The app is meant to help iOS users in the country flag unsolicited calls and messages as spam, but Apple believes such an app can invade privacy of its users.

Last week, Reuters had reported that TRAI is unhappy with Apple’s response so far and the two sides have not met since November. The regulator informed the technology giant in January that it is waiting for “basic clarifications” on what features the iOS version of its app can offer. TRAI seems to be disappointed by the fact that Apple offered to help the authority design its app without affecting privacy regulations and leverage new iOS features in November last year. The back and forth between both the sides could now end in legal action.

“We will consider taking legal action,” RS Sharma, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, told reporters on Thursday. Sharma was responding to a question on regulator’s next move after presenting telecom minister Manoj Sharma with results of its pilot project to offer WiFi services to the masses.

Apple and TRAI have been talking about developing such an app for nearly two years and the Tim Cook-led company believes allowing such an app could lead to privacy compromise on its platform. Apple is particularly concerned about letting the app access customers’ call and text records, which violates the user privacy norms the application. Apple told Reuters last week that the government app “as envisioned violates the privacy policy” of its App Store.

Trai has a similar application for Android which allows access to call logs and messages for reporting spam. Trai has also issues a consultation paper on privacy, ownership and security of data on telecom networks last year. The regulator was planning to repackage its Android app for Apple’s iOS as well but it found a bottleneck in the form of Apple’s privacy policy which restricted apps from selectively accessing contacts, see call logs and view text messages.

It is not clear what would transpire from Trai’s legal action against Apple but it could affect its long terms ambitions in India. Apple, despite being the second major smartphone brand, has little presence in India, which is now the fastest growing smartphone market. Apple is trying to make sure that it doesn’t feel left behind and is making inroads with local assembly of iPhone SE. The company is also planning to setup local manufacturing and self-owned retail stores in the country.

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Despite repeated statements from Trai, Apple remains quite on this issue. The legal battle has the potential of damaging image of both the regular as well as the most highly valued technology company. Apple is probably finding a way out of the issue without affecting privacy of its users and not jeopardizing its fortunes in the country.

  • Published Date: April 6, 2018 3:46 PM IST