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22 Jun 2024, Edition - 3266, Saturday

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Apple blinks, approves DND app made by TRAI for iOS store and iPhone users



For a long time, Apple resisted. But finally, the iPhone maker has given up and has seemingly conceded to the demands of Telecom Regulator of India (TRAI) to approve the Do Not Disturb (DND) app created the Indian government. Earlier, Apple had repeatedly rejected the TRAI-DND app from inclusion in the iOS store, which serves the iPhone and iPad, citing privacy concerns.

Apple and TRAI struggled to come to an agreement on this issue for almost a year before in July the Indian regulators threatened to ban the iPhone in the country. In July, TRAI issued a directive to Indian telecom companies telling them that phones that did not support TRAI-DND app would have to be barred from the telecom networks in India. The app is supposed to help users report spam calls and messages so that they could be eliminated.

“Every Access Provider shall ensure, within six months’ time, that all smartphone devices registered on its network support the permissions required for the functioning of such Apps as prescribed in the regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d),” TRAI noted. “Provided that where such devices do not permit functioning of such Apps as prescribed in regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d), Access Providers shall, on the order or direction of the Authority, derecognize such devices from their telecom networks.”

While iPhone wasn’t explicitly mentioned, the directive was clearly targeted at it because it was the only phone in India that didn’t support TRAI-DND app created by TRAI. The problem, according to sources within Apple, was that the TRAI-DND app was deemed a privacy risk. It sought access to a user’s SMS and call logs and on this subject, Apple was very touchy because it believed that third-parties should not access such details. On Android, where the conditions for apps are more lenient, the TRAI-DND app was available through the Google Play Store.

It is not clear if TRAI has in any way now modified its TRAI-DND app, meeting the privacy requirements from Apple or if Apple has simply gone ahead and allowed the app because it doesn’t want to risk alienating a powerful government regulator.

But it does seem that the TRAI-DND app approved by Apple uses the spam reporting mechanism that Apple recently introduced in the iOS 12. Also, the approved app only supports the iPhones running iOS 12.1.

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