On Thursday, 19 July, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a document entitled “Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation.” In this 113-page tome, Times of India discovered a short phrase stating that “every access provider shall ensure, within six months’ time, that all smart-phone devices registered on its network support the permissions required for functioning of such apps” that can report pesky calls and messages.
What does this mean? Basically, that all phones should be able to have either a TRAI-developed or TRAI-approved mobile application that allows users to report pesky calls and messages. If you’ve owned an Indian sim card for more than a couple of hours, I’m sure you realise the importance of such a service. Unsolicited advertisements in the form of messages and calls are an everyday reality for everyone.
TRAI themselves have already developed a Do-Not-Disturb (DND) app which is free for download. While Android devices have not had any issues placing this app on the Play Store, Apple’s system (and business plan) is a little different. Their entire modus operandi depends on creating and maintaining their own digital ecosystem.
However, even if Apple agree to develop their own app along the lines of TRAI’s DND app, there is another issue. The American company see this as a violation of their customer’s privacy as the third party app would have the ability to read the customer’s call and message records. Apple are notoriously strict about this type of invasion of privacy.
In December 2015, a couple in San Bernardino, America went on a public shooting spree killing 14 people plus themselves. In order to determine the motives behind this attack – and to see if it was linked to to the global terror threat that was ISIS – the American authorities demanded that Apple create backdoor access to the couple’s iPhone. By extension, this backdoor would have been useable on any iPhone on the planet.
Apple steadfastly denied this demand, and eventually the FBI was forced to use a third party to crack the phone before the case could go to court. The Steve Jobs-founded company sees TRAI’s demand in this light – a well-intentioned attempt at security that could have repercussions for their customers’ privacy.
As of today, Apple has six months to come to a conclusion. Reports state that they are in negotiations with TRAI to find a middle ground. If no deal can be struck, network operators in India will be instructed to cease their mobile services on all iPhones.