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Tech Mahindra & Microsoft partner to build call and SMS spam solution

Tech Mahindra and Microsoft have partnered to build a blockchain-based solution to fight SMS and call spam. The solution is designed to be in line with TRAI’s new regulations on DND and spam. The solution is being built on Microsoft’s Azure platform and will also utilize cloud services. The companies have not revealed any technical specifics or the workings of the solutions yet.

“The intersection of cloud and blockchain will ensure a new way of monitoring and enforcing compliance throughout the ecosystem,” said Prashant Shukla, National Tech Officer, Microsoft India in a joint statement. “Through this solution we will be able to help service providers be compliant with the new regulation.”

The blockchain solution will be a shared ledger of Unsolicited Commercial Communications (UCCs). It is meant to simplify obtaining customer preferences on registration and consent as to be included SMS and call send-out lists. Unsolicited Commercial Communications is the legal term for SMS and call spam. Earlier in May, TRAI released a draft regulation outlining a plan to combat SMS and call spam using blockchain technology.

TRAI has long tried to curb the menace of call and SMS spam: in 2010, it established a national opt-in registry of users who didn’t want any spam sent to them. Over 23 crore phone numbers have been added to that registry since then. But spam hasn’t stopped. The regulator says that even users who have registered on its national Do Not Disturb (DND) registry still get texts and calls from telemarketers. In its draft regulation, TRAI had lauded blockchain technology as a system that will help increase compliance with DND and consumer opt-outs by leveraging a permanent distributed ledger.

Also read: Apple opposes access to phone logs for TRAI’s spam reporting app

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Explicit consent and withdrawal part of new norms

In its draft regulation, TRAI had said that when users give their phone number out to someone, that doesn’t necessarily translate into consent to receive marketing information. Per the draft, users would be able to withdraw the consent that they gave earlier. And since all of this is on a standardized distributed ledger, there’s bound to be little wiggle room for spam senders. Having a note on how to opt-out of spam is a common feature in email (even a regulatory requirement in some countries), but not so much in SMS. This draft regulation’s consent withdrawal mechanism will essentially give all telecom subscribers a way to pull consent from individual spammers, as opposed to the DND registry, which seems like a nuclear option in comparison. Under the draft norms, if a telco fails to follow the law they risk facing a penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh per month.

India a large market for spam calls

Last July, we reported that Truecaller users in India, on an average, received 22.6 spam calls per month, which was the highest compared to 20 other countries plagued by spam calls. Spam calls in India mostly originate from operators providing telecom services, and from companies providing financial services. A large part of the spam calls from operators are used for advertising special offers, free data, and unlimited calling packs, the report said.

Also read: Privacy risks in TRAI’s speed test, Call Quality Feedback & DND apps

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