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Apple and TRAI spar again over anti-spam app, privacy concerns raised


Apple and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are at loggerheads again over the development of a government anti-spam mobile app with the US-based tech giant raising concerns about user privacy.

Apple’s contention has been that allowing any app broad access to a user’s call and text logs could compromise privacy.

In October last year, Apple had agreed to provide some help to the regulator to tap into new iOS features to build the “Do Not Disturb” app, which allows users to report unsolicited calls and text messages as spam.

Despite that agreement, the two sides have not met since November. Reuters reported that the telecom regulator was still waiting for “basic clarifications” on what exactly can the iOS version of its app offer.

Apple told Reuters that the government app “as envisioned violates the privacy policy” of its App Store. The company said it had been working with government engineers and would “continue discussing ways they can design their app to keep users’ personal data safe”.

Apple’s stance has not gone down well with TRAI chief RS Sharma who told Reuters that he will consult his legal team on how Apple could be pushed to help develop the application more swiftly. “We will take appropriate legal action,” Sharma told Reuters. “This is unjust, it shows the approach and attitude of this company.” Sharma did not provide any details on what action TRAI might take.

According to Reuters, Apple did not comment on Sharma’s remarks but said that it shared TRAI’s goal of protecting customers from unwanted calls and messages.

Android version of Trai’s app

The Android version of TRAI’s “Do Not Disturb” app (DND app) was launched in 2016. On downloading, the app requires users to grant permissions to access contacts and view text messages and then allows users to report them as spam.

Medianama had previously covered the privacy risks associated with TRAI’s DND app. The DND app on Android requests a lot of critical permissions from the user including the ability to read and rewrite a user’s call log, reroute outgoing calls and directly place calls. The app also needs access to information like “phone state, including the phone number of the device, current cellular network information, the status of any ongoing calls, and a list of any Phone Accounts registered on the device”. Android’s developer guide classifies protection level as ‘dangerous’ for this permission.

Google told Reuters that keeping users’ information secure is its top priority and the company believes in “openness and in the ability of users to make purchasing and downloading choices without top-down enforcement or censorship”.

Sharma concurred with Google’s approach, “Users should be in control of this data,” he said.

Apple said it would not modify its guidelines to allow any app access to contacts, see call logs or view text messages as those functionalities violate a user’s data security and privacy.

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    © 2008-2018 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ