Trai to Start Consultation Process on Data Ownership
To seek views on security and privacy from telcos and stakeholders
New Delhi: Trai will shortly begin a consultation process to address the issues of ownership, privacy and security of data which flows through the network of telcos.
“The consultation will be on data security, ownership and data privacy in the telecom sector. The fundamental question is of ownership of data, and who has the final right to a user’s data,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman RS Sharma told ET. “Telecom pipes must have some responsibility for the security of data (that ride on them),” he said. Apple is not allowing Trai’s DND app on its app store; sources cite security issues with the app
Sharma said the consultation paper kick-starting the consultation process could be issued within this week.
At the end of the process, Trai will issue recommendations to the telecom department which will take a final decision on implementation.
Telecom regulator’s move to float the consultation paper appears to be partly triggered by its displeasure with Apple Inc, which is yet to allow Trai’s Do-Not-Disturb (DND) app to be listed on its App Store, despite discussions being on for nearly a year.
Trai’s DND app, launched in June, aims to have control over unwanted phone calls and messages. The app can track the call and message logs of a registered user and suggest which ones are spam which can then be reported to the service providers for action. Sharma, in an interview to The Times of India, has accused Apple of being a “data coloniser” and “anticonsumer” as the company did not allow customers to pass on details about unwanted calls and unwanted messages to authorities as well as their mobile operators. Google’s android software on the other hand supports Trai’s DND app. The Trai chairman told ET that the broader issue was about data ownership.
WHO CONTROLS DATA
A person familiar with Apple’s policies and proto- cols said Trai’s DND app doesn’t measure up to the smartphone maker’s privacy security protocols and that the regulator needed to make sure the app conforms to them for it to be listed on its App Store. He added that Google’s support for the app emanates from the fact that the Android is open source and thus can allow any app, which is not the case with Apple’s iOS. Kishore Bhargava, a network and IT security specialist, said Apple had a global policy of not giving access to call logs. “They haven’t given this information to any other government, no question of them giving to Indian government just because Trai wants it,” he added.
The regulator will seek views of carriers and entities allied with the sector besides the public, amid a spate of allegations around data breaches in the country, as well as the growing debate on data security and ownership. Legal experts and privacy activists said Trai’s consultation would be timely given the impending Supreme Court verdict on the broader issue of privacy. But, they wondered if the telecom regulator had the jurisdiction to examine an issue which flows far wider than just telecom networks.
“The Trai regulates telecom licensees, so only telecom companies. Trai’s substantive power is to ensure quality of service, pricing controls... well defined categories under which it can exercise its regulatory powers. Right now it seems unclear under which provision can they undertake this exercise,” Apar Gupta, a Supreme Court lawyer working on data privacy issues said.
Trai chairman R S Sharma accused Apple of being a ‘data coloniser’ and ‘anti consumer’