As per the recent reports by Reuters, Apple has agreed to provide limited aid to the Indian government to develop an anti-spam mobile application for its iOS platform, after being refused to do so based on privacy concerns.
A bit of flashback here states of the US tech honcho been locked in a tussle with India’s telecoms regulators for more than a year now. To this, the officials have complained of the delaying from Apple’s end on advising the government for building an app that would allow the iPhone users to report to unsolicited marketing texts or calls as spam.
This Government app had witnessed its launch on Google’s Android platform last year, but a source close to the matter reported that Apple had pushed back on requests for an iOS version out of the concern that a government app with access to call and text logs could compromise its customers’ privacy.
Now, facing public criticisms from the regulator, Apple executives told India that its current iOS platform might not allow for some of the government’s requests, such as making call logs available within the app that would allow users to report them as spam.
Also, an Apple spokesman confirmed that the new iOS features to combat spam text messages would help the government build the app, but did not mention a word regarding the app’s potential inability to access call logs for reporting spam, as the Android version does.
Apple’s stand-off with the regulator is now occurring at a time when it is seeking greater access in India, the world’s third-largest smartphone market. The company has been lobbying the government for tax breaks to expand its phone assembly operations in the country, where it reported doubling its revenue versus the previous year for the quarter ending September 30.
According to Neil Shah of Hong Kong-based technology research firm Counterpoint Research, “This has now become more of an ego tussle between Apple and the regulator”. He further added that Apple was unlikely to agree to any requests specific to India because of the precedent that would set.
Now, the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) R.S. Sharma expressed his discontentment with Apple for not responding swiftly to the government’s requests. In an interview with Reuters, he regarded that, “We’ve told them they are harming their consumer. I hope good sense prevails upon them”.
Apple did not exactly comment on TRAI’s criticism but said that it had taken time to develop a privacy-friendly solution.
The App tussle and privacy woes:
Pesky marketing calls and unsolicited commercial text messages had been a major issue of trouble in India. Despite mobile users having the option to register themselves under a so-called “do not disturb” service to block marketers, businesses have nailed the system by using multiple phone numbers for promotions.
Now, TRAI’s anti-spam mobile application, also termed as Do Not Disturb, has been downloaded more than 100,000 times from the Google Android app section.
Even before this app gets launched, it asks the user to allow it access to contacts and view text messages. Users can then start reporting numbers as spam.
However, Apple doesn’t seem to be very much satisfied with this feature, where an industry source, accustomed with the matter regarded that, “The app can peep into logs, Apple had conveyed that their (privacy) policy does not allow this”.
Even after this TRAI regarded that, the app does not raise any privacy concerns.
More and more of meetings and e-mails:
As per the reviews of government officials and documents, Reuters have reported of at least seven meetings between the two sides and dozens of e-mails exchanged since last year.
Months after the talks began, this year August saw Apple producing a written letter to TRAI, explaining that a technical meeting would help them to establish, “what is possible and not possible”.
However, TRAI pushed back, writing back in September that, “The whole exercise in organizing the proposed meeting would be a waste of resources.. please share concrete solutions that have a likelihood of addressing the issues we have been discussing over the past one year”.
Again, later that month, Apple made another attempt and approached the TRAI saying that it had identified potential solutions but they would require additional discussions with the regulator’s technical staff.
Finally, Apple executives met TRAI officials in October and conveyed they would help them develop the first version of the app with limited features.
Now, to this entire thing, Sharma, the TRAI chief regarded that, “They (Apple) are adopting dilatory tactics. They’ve had meetings, meetings, and meetings”.