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TRAI threatens Apple with legal action for delaying ‘Do Not Disturb’ iOS app

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Apple says the DND app envisioned by the government stands to violate privacy policies of the App Store. It amounts to data invasion on user devices.India’s telecom regulator is miffed with smartphone giant Apple for delaying the anti-spam app which the latter was supposed to develop for the government. TRAI has now threatened to take legal action against Apple, which had agreed last October to come up with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) iOS app. The app meant for curbing spam calls and SMS-es on the iOS platform has consistently been “delayed” by Apple. This has prompted TRAI to take the legal route. TRAI chairman RS Sharma reportedly said: “We will take appropriate legal action. This is unjust, it shows the approach and attitude of this company.”Meanwhile, Apple is said to have been cautious because the proposed DND app would mean accessing customers’ call and text logs in what would amount to an invasion of privacy. Apple hasn’t met TRAI since November 2017, and the regulatory authority is awaiting “basic clarifications” on the potential features the iOS app can offer. Android version of TRAI’s DND app was released in 2016.However, the iPhone-maker told Reuters that the DND app as envisioned by TRAI stands to “violate the privacy policy” of the Apple App Store. It added that it was working with government engineers and would “continue discussing ways they can design their app to keep users’ personal data safe”.While Apple shares TRAI’s vision of preventing unwanted telemarketing communication from reaching users, it is undecided on the functionalities of the app. Incidentally, the Android version of the DND app was rolled out in 2016. It requires users to grant permissions (via Settings) to the app to access contacts and text messages stored in the device. Once allowed, users can go on to report unsolicited telecommunication. According to TRAI, DND helps in the “crowdsourcing of data about offending messages and calls to speed up detection of unregistered telemarketers.” It also offers “updates about the action taken on complaints within the app”. TRAI had even contemplated repackaging the Android app on to iOS, but Apple is said to have raised concerns about data security and privacy and sought more “consultation” on the same.Apple’s rift with TRAI has emerged at a time when tech giants are being scrutinised and ridiculed worldwide for misusing and abusing user data. Several governments and administrative bodies (the EU, for instance) are cracking on the likes of Facebook, Google, and Amazon for being ultra-powerful and super invasive. While Apple is not at the receiving end yet, its equation with the Indian authorities has been chequered. Despite being a leading smartphone brand globally, Apple owns only two-three percent of the Indian handset market. Sure, it has outlined expansion plans, but India’s stringent regulatory network, a and renewed focus on local manufacturing has kept Apple at bay. Its continued requests for tax breaks have not found favour either. Apple is yet to respond to TRAI’s legal threat.

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