Taking stock of the “serious problem” of automatic video downloads without consumers’ knowledge, telecom regulator Trai Wednesday said it may come up with technological solutions to tackle these unsolicited online advertisements that lead to “data shock” for users.
“Let us see if we can do it without a consultation paper…whether we are able to come up with some technology solutions, which we will recommend,” Trai Chairman R S Sharma said on the sidelines of a CII event. Tuesday, Trai had conducted a session in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad on the issue on “unsolicited downloads and background actioning of data” where officials of technology companies including Google and Facebook also participated, he said.
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Explaining the issue in detail, Sharma said, “When you visit a page there are videos running in the background and those videos are downloading data, and there are other kinds of advertisements also running.” He said this was a serious problem as it leads to “data shock” with users consuming data without being aware of it.
Besides technology solution, consumers also need to be made aware of options available to them to block the auto downloading of such videos, he added.
“How can you switch off your background data…there are systems available on iOS and Android…there are setting where one can block the downloading of the background data…that awareness campaign can also be done,” he said. Sharma indicated that Trai would prefer to take the route of technology tools and awareness, rather than regulation to overcome the problem.
“If it is possible to have some tools, technologies awareness campaigns by which this problem can be reduced or mitigated we will be happy to take that road, rather than the road of regulation,” he said. On the controversial issue of free data, for which the regulator conducted an open house yesterday to get industry’s opinion, Sharma said that Trai will form its views in a “couple of weeks”.
“We had an open house discussion on free data as to how the architecture should be done. The telecom industry, start-ups and a number of other people participated and we got very good inputs. We will take a view in a couple of weeks,” Sharma said.
In Free Data, the regulator is exploring models to give consumers free Internet service within the ‘Net Neutrality’ framework, after barring platforms like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero under its differential pricing rule.
Earlier this year, Trai sought public views on whether there is a need to have telecom service provider-agnostic platform to provide free data or suitable reimbursement to users, without violating ‘Net Neutrality’ principles. Sharma had earlier said that the two issues ‘Free Data’ and ‘Net Neutrality’ will be handled separately and that the architecture in ‘Free Data’ should respect the principles of ‘Net Neutrality’.