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TRAI considers caller name display based on KYC

Will it make apps like Truecaller irrelevant?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is looking to come up with a framework that will flash a caller’s name on the phone screen as per their KYC (Know Your Customer) records when a call is made, as per a PTI report.

Why it matters: The framework is likely to have significant implications on privacy as people will be able to know the official name of the person calling them.

  • It is likely to be more accurate than databases offered by apps like Truecaller given that it will be based on government records. The element of transparency is likely to rein in spam calls and messages which are a source of irritation to many users.

Who asked for a framework: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) directed TRAI to begin its consultation process, the report revealed.

When the consultation will begin: It is expected to begin in a couple of months, according to TRAI Chairman PD Vaghela’s comments to PTI.

Who conducts the KYC: Telecom service providers can issue a SIM card only after a customer has furnished the required documents as part of the KYC process mandated by the government.

Will it make apps like Truecaller irrelevant? It is difficult to say how it will impact other apps in the ecosystem as the framework has not even been conceived. A Truecaller spokesperson told PTI that they welcomed the announcement.

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“Number identification is crucial to ending the menace of spam and scam calls,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Does it endanger privacy? The use of government data to reveal the identities of callers may pose privacy risks and leave people susceptible to scammers. A privacy researcher, Venkatanaryanan Anand, explained that the move may add another dilemma to phones, in a tweet.

“Trai also forgets how cyber scammers work. w/ UPI name lookups on phone numbers via recon tools, it will now be trivial for them to know a lot about one person from mass sourced list of phone numbers,” Anand said.

What has TRAI done to rein in spam messages: TRAI’s Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation (TCCCP Regulations) were notified in 2018, and came into force in 2021.

  • They involved an aggressive way of combating spam: filtering any SMS message whose format was not registered on a blockchain mandated by the regulator.
  • Telcos were given a few months to fully inform telemarketers using SMS that they need to register the formats for transactional messages (like one-time passcodes, or OTPs) to not get caught in the fray.
  • The move was not without friction as millions of SMS messages didn’t reach their recipients. They were “scrubbed” and blocked, as required by the law because the blockchain had no details on their format.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

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

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