Apple Under Pressure From Indian Regulator Over Anti-Spam App

Apple is under pressure from India’s telecom regulator to add a government anti-spam mobile application to its App Store, in the latest manifestation of tensions over digital privacy between the two parties involved.

According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple has been rejecting a request from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to approve its Do Not Disturb app for the Apple app store.

TRAI’s Do Not Disturb app functions like a state-sponsored Truecaller service, allowing users to block Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC), telemarketing calls, and spam SMSes. People have to register their number with the tool, after which spam calls and messages they receive are shared with the agency to speed up detection of unregistered telemarketers.

TRAI has been trying to get Do Not Disturb on the App Store, but Apple is apparently not allowing this on the grounds that the application violates its privacy policy. Bloomberg reports that this has infuriated the regulator, with its chairman Ram Sewak Sharma going on record saying, “Nobody’s asking Apple to violate its privacy policy. It is a ridiculous situation, no company can be allowed to be the guardian of a user’s data.”

Several meetings with Apple have reportedly failed to resolve the standoff over the anti-spam app. While Apple’s privacy policy allows it to share user data with affiliates and strategic partners, Sharma said the Indian government‘s Do Not Disturb app only requires a limited, pre-approved level of data sharing. However, Apple’s policy states that sharing data with any other entity isn’t permitted.

“The problem of who controls user data is getting acute and we have to plug the loose ends,” Sharma said. “This is not the regulator versus Apple, but Apple versus its own users.”

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