Telcos Call for the Regulation of OTT Communication Apps

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Telecom operators have asked for the regulation of the over-the-top (OTT) communication apps. Citing the recent WhatsApp privacy policy changes as an example, the telcos have argued that OTT apps don’t have any obligation to protect its customers' privacy. This means these apps need to be regulated just the way licence norms regulate telcos. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked the telecom secretary of India, Anshu Prakash to level the playing field for the telcos if the OTT apps are not going to be regulated meaning a request for relaxing the regulatory obligations for the operators.

Telcos Need to Follow Strict Privacy Guidelines, Whereas OTT Apps Don’t

According to a report from the ET Telecom, COAI said that the telcos have to follow strict privacy guidelines for ensuring the protection of its users' privacy, whereas, OTT apps don’t have to do that. COAI took WhatsApp as an example and highlighted how it changed the privacy policy for the users putting them in a tough spot by sharing their data with other companies.

The telecom body also highlighted the difference in security parameters that both the players have to follow. For telcos, a huge cost is involved in setting up a Lawful Interception and Monitoring (LIM) system to help agencies track all the malicious messages and calls, while OTT players have no such obligation.

COAI said that OTT players aren’t even providing encryption keys to the security agencies and on top of that, all their data centres are outside of India. The argument put forth is to level the playing field for both the telcos and the OTT communication apps such as WhatsApp. Either regulate the OTT players or relax the obligations of the telcos in the same regard.

It will be interesting to see what response comes from the government to this request from the telecom body.

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