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In compromise with TRAI, Apple updates iOS to include spam reporting

In an apparent compromise, Apple has updated their OS to natively support SMS and call spam reporting, clearing the way for TRAI to release its DND app to report spam for iOS, HuffPost reports. In press conferences and conversations with journalists, TRAI has often fumed at Apple for declining to allow the regulator’s spam-reporting app into the App Store. In April, TRAI chairman RS Sharma said that they were considering legal action against Apple, although it’s unclear precisely what legal standing they had to bring a case against the company. (In fact, a customer group’s petition last year in the Delhi High Court to compel the App Store to allow the app was rejected.)

UPDATE (Sunday, 10th June): In response to a query by MediaNama, TRAI chairman RS Sharma said, “We will need to verify whether the update enables the functional requirements or not. I have asked our people to find out.” Apple did not return a request for comment over the weekend.

Spam reporting on iOS

Documentation on Apple’s developer website lays out the particulars of how spam reporting will work. This update will allow developers — not limited to TRAI — to create an extension that lets users report spam from within iPhones’ call logs interface. Here’s how Apple describes the process:

To report SMS messages and calls, the user must enable an Unwanted Communication extension in the Settings app. They can only enable one Unwanted Communication extension at a time.

In order to report calls, the user swipes left on an item in the Recents list and selects Report. For SMS messages, they press the Report Messages button when it appears in the Messages transcript. Users can also select messages by long-pressing a message and selecting additional messages, then selecting Report Messages.

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iOS has tighter privacy guidelines than Android. For instance, iOS does not allow one-time passcodes sent via SMS to be auto-filled, whereas Android does. TRAI struggled to develop an app that was compliant with these guidelines since it wanted total access to users’ SMS logs. This was a demand that Apple refused to comply with, and the current implementation does not give TRAI unrestricted access to users’ call and SMS logs.

As of October last year, iOS accounts for a little over 3% of Indian smartphones.

ReadPrivacy risks in TRAI’s speed test, Call Quality Feedback & DND apps

Apple and TRAI’s tiff: a timeline

— In June 2016, TRAI releases its DND app on the Google Play Store. Apple refuses permission for the app on the App Store, citing privacy concerns.
— Over 2017, the company flies in executives like its senior director for global privacy Jane Horvath for discussions with TRAI. The regulator refuses a technical meeting to determine possible options, saying it would be a waste of resources, and demands Apple to communicate a “concrete” solution. Apple agrees to offer ‘limited help’ in the app’s development.
— In November that year, relations between TRAI and the company worsen as Apple refuses to provide complete call and SMS logs to any third party app. RS Sharma threatens legal action. As of March the following year, the two sides hadn’t met for months.
— In May, with iOS 12’s release, Apple silently updates its documentation to include call and SMS spam reporting, without letting any third party app access full logs.

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Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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