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TRAI declares Apple to be “anti-consumer” and accuses it of “data-colonisation”

TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Apple have gotten into a weird power struggle of sorts, and with Apple not likely to budge, the government has resorted to name calling.

Times Of India reports

“Telecom regulator Trai has accused iPhone maker Apple of engaging in “data colonisation” in India and being “anti-consumer” by not allowing customers to pass on details about pesky calls and unwanted messages to authorities as well as their mobile operators.”

The heart of the issue is the way Apple gives (or withholds) data sharing permissions to its users. Traditionally, Apple doesn’t allow the user to share any information with a third-party app unless it’s vetted by Apple’s strict privacy laws. Which, as it turns out, rarely allow anyone (other than Apple apps, of course) to access your data. This is the section of data that Apple classifies as “sensitive” and includes records such as financial transactions and call history.

TRAI wants Apple to lift those restrictions and allow users to share the information with whomever they want freely.

Apple has been involved in multiple discussions with TRAI to sort the matter out. However, after many rounds of talks, they have not really reached any common ground. RS Sharma, the chairman of TRIA, was very vocal about his frustrations with the Cupertino electronics giant, saying Apple has “just been discussing, discussing, and discussing,” and not doing any actual work!

A big point of contention was the DND app launched by TRAI.

The government had launched the app to apparently “have effective control over the menace of pesky calls and unsolicited SMS.” But in order to achieve that goal, the app needs access to your call and SMS records (among other things).

“The app has the capability to procure SMS details and call records of an individual from the phone’s messages column and call-log records. This would enable a customer to report the number sending unsolicited messages or making pesky calls straight to Trai from the app, following which action could be taken.”

Yes, we know, it’s fishy. As hell!

But, the TRAI is adamant that it’s for the good of the customers. And Apple is standing in the way of this “noble cause”!! Sharma explained his frustrations to TOI —

“So basically you (Apple) are violating the right of the user to willingly share his/her own data with the regulator or with any third party of his/her choice. If a customer wants to share financial transaction data with his/her bank, for getting a loan, why should it not be allowed? This is what we call data colonisation.”

Sharma calls out the issue to be about “Data Ownership” — that the consumer is the final owner of the data and his wish to share – or not share – data should take precedence over all else.

Apple, on the other hand, says it’s a matter of “Data Privacy” — opening up the access to one customer will open up the access to everyone else, and it will lead to a lot of data leakages. They pride themselves in their ability to provide world class data privacy, and they are not willing to compromise on the issue.

I, for one, stand behind Apple.

I don’t mind my data going to third-party apps. I also like to choose whom my data goes to. But if it’s a binary choice (between the government and Apple), I would much rather have Apple have my data than the government.

That’s because I know what Apple will use my data for — to sell me stuff. But I have no idea what the government will use my data for. I am not sure why the government is so adamant on having my data in the first place!

And that does not make me an anti-national. It just makes me a prudent citizen, aware of his rights.

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