Trai to Start Con­sul­ta­tion Process on Data Own­er­ship

To seek views on se­cu­rity and pri­vacy from tel­cos and stake­hold­ers

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Gul­veen.Au­lakh @times­group.com

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

“Ap­ple can at best be the cus­to­dian of data. The own­er­ship should re­main and shall re­main with the con­sumer who pro­duced the data,” he said. Sharma ques­tioned whether third-party en­ti­ties like app stores could con­trol a mo­bile user’s right over his own data, cit­ing data se­cu­rity and pri­vacy, even if the cus­tomer was will­ing to share it. When con­tacted, an Ap­ple spokesper­son said its pri­vacy pol­icy was pub­licly avail­able on its web­site.

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’

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