For India, Apple Is Developing An Anti-Spam App: Here’s What You Need To Know

Apple seems like going to help the Indian Government develop an anti-spam app that meets the App Store guidelines. Here’s everything you need to know about.

With that said, Apple planning to help India in development of an Anti-Spam app after Face off with TRAI. The Cupertino-based company has been locked in a tussle with India’s telecoms regulator for more than a year. It looks like Apple had been pushing back over privacy concerns, as the Do Not Disturb app has been available on Android for months, so Apple decided to launch its own anti-spam messaging app in India as well.

The story begins with this news, as Apple got into a tussle with TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) last year over an anti-spam app developed by the regulator. How many bother in India about privacy? Unsolicited telemarketing and spam calls are rife in the country, and the regulator created an app called DoNotDisturb to filter out such calls. While the app made its way to the Google Play Store just fine, it wasn’t allowed on the iOS App Store as Apple cited privacy issues.

Predictably, the same regulator wasn’t actually chuffed about the fact its app being rejected, and started going on the offensive, labeling Apple’s behavior as being “anti-consumer.” After year’s worth of discussions with the regulator, Apple is now going to help the Indian Govt. develop anti-spam app tailored for iPhone and iPad devices. Before we get right into the details, a quick primer on TRAI’s Do Not Disturb (DND) app.

What does TRAI’s app do?

The first version of DND has been made available for download Do Not Disturb last year, relying on a crowdsourced approach that gave users the ability to easily report spam calls and text messages. TRAI also built a spam detection engine for weeding out telemarketing SMSes. The main issue with DND – and the reason it was ultimately rejected by Apple from the App Store – was that it required a laundry list of permissions to run.

On Android, DND app requires access to phone calls, contacts, and SMS texts, which makes sense given that its goal is to identify spam calls. For that, the app also asks for location and storage access, and that’s the last bit of worrisome. There’s no reason for TRAI to require access to a device’s storage, and the regulator hasn’t exactly clarified why it needs this permission. TRAI chairman R S Sharma instead accused Apple of inaction:

While Google’s Android supports our Do-Not-Disturb (DND) app, Apple has just been discussing, discussing, and discussing. They have not done anything.

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.

Google, for its part, has left the decision to users, stating:

We believe in openness and in the ability of users to make purchasing and downloading choices without top-down enforcement or censorship. Users are prompted with requests for permissions that they can choose to accept or decline.

Apple’s solution

With Apple unwilling to give TRAI’s app access to call logs, the regulator entered into a standoff that lasted over a year. Apple sends in execs to India to fix and resolve the issue and go over “what is possible and not possible” with regards to the App Store guidelines.

It finally looks like a resolution is in sight, as Reuters is reporting that Apple will develop ” the first version of the app” with limited capabilities for the regulator. For now, it sounds like TRAI is onboard with a better solution:

They (Apple) will help develop an app which, to an extent, can solve the requirements.

What makes happy is that Apple’s decision in choosing users’ privacy over the regulator’s demands is admirable. And also the company’s decision in developing an anti-spam app that lets iPhone users in the country flag telemarkets with ease.

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