Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) is finalising its recommendations on data ownership, privacy and security for the app developers and companies. This new development which is expected to be completed by the end of this month seeks to put more regulation on the data flow from the users to app companies. Under the recommendation, the Trai will also clearly define what will comprise of personal information from a legal definition point of view.
According to industry experts who have been closely following the matter, the Trai is looking for ways to place a more stringent regulation on the data flow from the users to the app makers and the apps which ride on the network. To accomplish this, the regulator might also navigate via legal ways to make amendments to the Trai act. However, if Trai decides to move forward with this step they are bound to face heavy resistance from the app makers as the community of developers is of strong conviction that app makers are already under heavy regulation from Trai, experts told Economic Times.
Trai is making these recommendations for the telecom sector in an interesting time where already a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice BN Srikrishna is drafting India’s first law on data protection. A person anonymously said about the recommendations that Trai was making “The way to do so (get control over data on apps) could be by amending the Trai Act or asking the relevant ministry to give it powers to delve further into this issue.” He further added, “Excess permissions that apps take beyond the app’s usage also need to be relooked at... apps should be restricted from taking any unauthorised data or seeking more permissions than required to run the app."
The same person pointed out that the mobile apps in question sought access to photo gallery, contacts and call logs on the user’s phone even though they were not required by the application. The recommendation which is still in the drafting stage is set to come out by the end of this month after a firm confirmation on all the points.
This announcement by Trai comes right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found himself in a hard position apologising to authorities for misuse of data via the biggest social network. Also, allegations say that the US elections also might be influenced by this scandal. The list of victims who suffered from a breach of data contained over half a million Indian users.
It is noteworthy that this is not the first time that Trai is making progress in this respect, they have previously issued a consultation paper in August post their meeting with Apple where both the parties struggled to reach a conclusion for the development of a DND app in the iOS environment. While Trai debated that the data belonged to the users, Apple was of the view that granting access to users call logs and messages would mean compromising their privacy and security.
Trai stayed with their words and added that this recommendation goes on to grant users the full rights and control of their data which would further prevent misuse by app companies.
Trai chairman, RS Sharma had some words to share on this new recommendation ?“The problem is urgent. The problem is also difficult, because thus far we have not dealt with these kinds of problems. So, the laws of this world will have to be different.” Sharma also added that these app makers manipulated users into giving access to their personal data and also that the users do not have knowledge about the repercussions about doing the same. In this entire transaction, the app companies are in the profit where they make acquire, hold or sell this user data. One of the persons also added that the terms and conditions of the data usage policy should be clearly mentioned by the apps.
Nikhil Pawha who is the co-founder of Internet Freedom Foundation had a different outlook on the news and took the side of app makers. He said “Trai has no jurisdiction under the Trai Act to control apps or content. It only has control of the carriage; they can only make recommendations to the Department of Telecommunications or the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Any jurisdiction would exist with the Information and Broadcasting ministry, which has already formed a committee to look into regulating online content.” reports ET.
He further added “There can be delegated regulation, where platforms such as Facebook, GooglePlay store and Apple App Store have the mandate to control apps on their platforms, which has to be in consonance with global practices and not necessarily Indian practices, because the moment you have India-specific regulation, it lends itself to Balkanisation of the open Internet,”
It will be interesting to see how the data usage and laws on sharing of data by companies changes in coming months in the country. Propelled by the heat of Facebook data leak scandal, authorities are running ahead to fix the flaws in the already existing technologies while the app makers put up a strong front against it.