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Apple under fire from TRAI for dismissing anti-spam app

Apple under fire from TRAI for dismissing anti-spam app

Indian regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has criticised Apple’s failure to grant approval for an anti-spam app to be sold via the App Store.

The app, which is called Do Not Disturb, enables users who are receiving spam messages or calls to trace the spammer’s details and report them to their operator, who can then block the nuisance numbers. However, Apple has claimed that the app contravenes the App Store’s privacy policy, and has refused to give it the green light.

TRAI chairman Ram Sewak Sharma has slammed Apple’s decision, 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. The problem of who controls user data is getting acute and we have to plug the loose ends. This is not the regulator versus Apple, but Apple versus its own users.”

Sharma was also the architect of India’s ban on Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which offers zero-rated access to certain websites. He noted that despite holding at least six meetings with Apple, the regulator had not reached a solution as the firm will not share app data with anyone apart from its own affiliates and strategic partners.

TRAI has invited public and stakeholder feedback as part of a consultation on network data, with particular regard to the level of control that users have over their personal information. Once the consultation is completed in September, its findings could be used to create new rules governing user data and privacy.

These rules could in turn be incorporated into telecom licensing in India, which could have a major impact on companies that trade on handling their customers’ personal data – such as Apple, Facebook and Google. With India becoming a more important market for Apple, the firm will be looking to forge a constructive relationship with the country’s government, so its reluctance to approve Do Not Disturb could have a negative impact on its Indian ambitions.

India is a highly desirable market for Apple, particularly as the US-based firm has struggled in China, registering a consecutive six quarters of double-digit sales declines in the market. This has left Apple with a substantial gap in its revenues.

In addition, India is the first market outside of China in which Apple has begun manufacturing devices, having set up a firm in Bengaluru (Bangalore) which began making iPhone SE devices in May. India is the world’s second largest smartphone market after China, and is also a swiftly growing market.

Before it began manufacturing devices in India, Apple had demanded tax breaks from the government, then requested that these be extended to its suppliers. While the government has rejected both requests on the grounds that it will not deliver tax breaks to an individual company, it is drafting a new policy that could extend the exemptions to all device manufacturers.