Apple Ready to Help TRAI in Making Anti-Spam App for iOS
Apple Inc has agreed to give limited help to the Indian government to develop an anti-spam mobile application for its iOS platform, after refusing to do so based on privacy concerns, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters.
The US tech giant has been locked in a tussle with India's telecom regulator for more than a year. Officials complained Apple dragged its feet on advising the government how to develop an app that would allow iPhone users to report unsolicited marketing texts or calls as spam.
The government app was launched on Google's Android platform last year, but an industry source with direct knowledge of the matter said Apple pushed back on requests for an iOS version due to concerns that a government app with access to call and text logs could compromise its customers' privacy.
Facing public criticism from the regulator, Apple executives flew to New Delhi last month and told government officials that the company would help develop the app, but only with limited capabilities, according to a government official aware of the matter.
Apple's executives have told India that its current iOS platform might not allow for some of the government's requests, such as making call logs available within the app that would allow users to report them as spam, the official said.
An Apple spokesman confirmed that the new iOS features to combat spam text messages would help the government build the app, but did not comment on the app's potential inability to access call logs for reporting spam, as the Android version does.
Apple's stand-off with the regulator comes at a time when it is seeking greater access in India, the world's third-largest smartphone market.
Balancing growth and market share with protecting customer privacy has become a defining challenge for global tech companies such as Apple, which regularly clash with governments over allowing access to content on their devices, especially for law enforcement needs.
The chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) RS Sharma said he was unhappy with Apple for not responding swiftly to the government's requests.
Apple did not comment on TRAI's criticism, but said that it had taken time to develop a privacy-friendly solution. TRAI's anti-spam mobile application, also called Do Not Disturb, has been downloaded more than 100,000 times from the Google Android app section.
Before the app launches, it asks the user to allow it access to contacts and view text messages. Users can then start reporting numbers as spam.
Apple, however, has been worried.
"The app can peep into logs, Apple had conveyed that their (privacy) policy does not allow this," said the industry source familiar with the matter.
TRAI said the app does not raise any privacy concerns.
(This story has been published in arrangement with Reuters)
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