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Apple's refusal to okay India's anti-spam app irks regulators

This might potentially harm company's efforts to sell more products

Saritha Rai | Bloomberg 

Apple’s refusal so far to approve the Indian government’s anti-spam iPhone app is infuriating regulators, potentially harming the company’s efforts to sell more products in the country. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been trying unsuccessfully to get its Do Not Disturb software included in the App Store. The programme lets people share spam call and text message logs with the agency, which uses the data to alert mobile operators to block the spammers. Apple has said the app violates its privacy policy, according to the regulator. The stand-off could impact Apple’s efforts to expand in India, where half a billion smartphones will be sold by 2020.

The Cupertino, California-based company has been in discussions with India’s government to open retail stores and secure permission to sell used iPhones imported into the country. Apple has put forth a long list of demands, including tax breaks and other concessions, to set up manufacturing facilities. “Nobody’s asking Apple to violate its privacy policy,” said Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of the Delhi-based telecom regulator. “It is a ridiculous situation, no company can be allowed to be the guardian of a user’s data.” The regulator is currently seeking public and stakeholder comments on a consultative paper on users’ control over their personal information and rules on the flow of data through telecommunications networks. The process, scheduled to be completed in September, could eventually lead to new rules governing user data. That could also become part of the telecom licensing process, Sharma said. Any new steps could affect not just Apple, but Facebook, Google and other technology firms that handle large amounts of private and personal information. “Data is a strategic asset, and there’s realisation around the world that public policy has to come to grips with it,” said Nandan Nilekani, who ran India’s biometric Aadhaar identity programme and was recently appointed chairman of Infosys. Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment on the regulator’s remarks.

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First Published: Wed, September 06 2017. 22:41 IST
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