iPhone deactivation in India: Apple writes to TRAI on new features to detect spam
Apple faces deactivation of its millions of iPhones in India if it fails to comply with the TRAI’s new rules to curb spam calls and messages.
Apple has informed telecom regulator TRAI that the new version of its operating system includes a feature that would allow users to report unwanted messages and calls as spam, sources said.
The issue of reporting unsolicited telemarketing calls and messages has been a major bone of contention between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the US-based company.
According to sources, Apple in its letter dated June 19 said it has recently announced a new feature in iOS 12 (its operating system) to enhance spam SMS and call reporting.
This new capability, the company said, provides developers with the ability to create an app extension that allows users to report both unwanted messages and calls as spam. To report the unsolicited communication, the user will have to enable an Unwanted Communication extension in the Settings app, it added.
However, iOS and Apple's app store review guidelines still do not allow a mobile app to transmit a customer's personally-identifiable information and usage history to a third-party automatically, without the user directing that action.
Sources, who have seen the letter, said Apple has argued that doing so would open the door to users being tracked by third parties without their knowledge and may expose them to harm.
A senior TRAI official, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that Apple has sent a letter, saying that it is building functionalities in iOS version 12 to enable handling of complaints related to spam and pesky calls.
Apple did not comment on a query mailed by PTI on the issue.
India's telecom regulator and Apple have been at loggerheads for nearly a year now on inclusion of TRAI's DND (do not disturb) app on the latter's app store.
TRAI Chairman R S Sharma has, in the past, termed as "unreasonable" Apple's stance of not allowing the regulator's pesky call reporting app on its platform, asserting that the issue is about giving users control over their own data and not one of privacy.
TRAI's pesky call app allows users to flag telemarketing calls and unsolicited messages directly to the regulator. Google's Android operating system already supports the app. Apple is believed to have resisted listing of the app on its platform citing privacy concerns.
TRAI had also maintained that its rules on curbing pesky calls do not target any specific player or operating system, and has advocated giving consumers the freedom to report unsolicited commercial communications or complain about them to the sector regulator.
Defending the DND app, Sharma today said that it did not ask for access to all call logs, but rather allows the users to share only details of unsolicited calls or messages.
"Unnecessarily, people are given an impression that our app is asking for wholesale permission to access contacts and call logs...," Sharma said.
To a specific query on the embroglio with Apple, the outgoing TRAI chief said the regulator "does not fight any pitched battles with anybody" but declined to discuss the issue at length.
Meanwhile, TRAI today announced that two of its mobile apps -- do not disturb app that reports pesky calls and Mycall app that measures call quality -- will be available on UMANG platform. UMANG provides a single platform for various e-governance apps and citizen-centric services by the Centre and local administrations.
Presently, UMANG has more than 50 lakh downloads and TRAI apps individually have over 4 lakh downloads, and the integration would increase reach of the regulator's apps.