TRAI questions the right of third parties to take control of user-generated data

TRAI has questioned the control of third-party entities such as app stores to “limit” mobile users’ right over their own data in the name of data security

Telecom regulator TRAI today questioned the control of third-party entities such as app stores to “limit” mobile users’ right over their own data in the name of data security and privacy.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said the question is who owns data like call logs and messages that a user receives on his/her mobile, and whether third-party entities can actually “extinguish” the users’ right over such data. He said that TRAI will release a discussion paper on the issue in a day or two.

The comment comes in the backdrop of the regulator’s ongoing tussle with Apple that is reportedly not allowing convergence of the TRAI’s Do-Not-Disturb app on its iOS platform. TRAI’s app allows users to flag pesky calls and unsolicited messages directly to the regulator as it pulls out such details from messages and call logs.

While Google’s Android operating system supports the TRAI app, the regulator’s talks with Apple have reportedly not yielded much results.

Refusing to name specific companies or platforms, Sharma said, “The larger issue is who owns data generated by a mobile user, what are their rights, and whether any other entity can extinguish his (user’s) right on the data” in the name of securing it.

Sharma, who was speaking on the sidelines of Digital India Foundation event, said questions like these are important in the current context of a digital world where data is a “currency, a property and valuable”.

“What can be the objection of a third party, if the user wants to willing share his data,” Sharma quipped adding that a consultation paper will be issued in 1-2 days.

Replying to a specific question on Apple not supporting the TRAI’s app, Sharma said that “be it any store, my basic question is who has the right over that data…and can a third party…a store owner…limit my right on data that is my property”.

Sharma argued that given that SMS and call logs belong to a mobile user, a third party could not take control of such data in the name of data privacy or security.

When contacted, an Apple spokesperson pointed to the company’s privacy website which quotes its global CEO Tim Cook as saying that Apple is committed to protecting its customer’s privacy.

“Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will,” he said.

Industry sources said Apple’s objections may be stemming from the company’s concerns around privacy and encryption of the information.

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