Apple’s iOS 12 software update is expected to come with an extension that allows users to report unwanted calls and text messages. While this is a feature that Google’s Android phones have had for a while, this gains importance in the context of India, where the iPhone-maker is in a standoff with the telecom regulator TRAI over allowing a ‘Do Not Disturb’ app to be allowed on the App Store and its devices.
According to a report in 9to5mac.com, Apple’s note to developers talks about a new feature that will let them create extensions to block “Unwanted Communication”. While this will not be a stock feature, but a user-enabled setting, they will be able to swipe on calls and text messages to report them as spam.
The post says:
“To report SMS messages and calls, the user must enable an Unwanted Communication extension in the Settings app. They can only enable one Unwanted Communication extension at a time.”
But it remains to be seen if this will be enough to satisfy the regulator. TRAI, on Thursday, came out with its Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018, in which it said, “It is not expecting from the service providers to take responsibility of the device manufacturers in supporting the DnD App or such similar Apps but would only direct the service providers to derecognize such smart mobile phone devices on their network which do not support the functionality of such App on their device platform.”
Since Apple has so far not played ball on letting the app, which it thinks infringes on user privacy, on the App Store, the regulator might look at derecognising millions of iPhones running on networks across the country.
“As far as derecognition of devices is concerned, TRAI based on the grievances from the customers would make a decision regarding whether the device needs to be derecognised by the service providers or not based on whether any device is contravening the Regulation or not,” the regulation says.
TRAI is categorical that access providers should ensure, “within six months’ time, that all smartphones registered on its network support the permissions required for the functioning of such Apps.” It goes on to add that before the derecognition, the “concerned parties may be given a reasonable opportunity.” It is learnt that Apple has already given its comments on the draft regulation, though it is not available on the TRAI website.
Apple is known to fight all attempts on what it thinks are infringements of user privacy as was made clear with how the tech giant fought the San Bernardino case where it to set a precedent by refusing to allow US security agencies to access the iPhone of a terror suspect.
Meanwhile, the Indian Cellular Association has in its comments to the draft regulations made it clear that TRAI does not have jurisdiction over device manufacturers. Appreciating the TRAI’s efforts, the ICA said the regulator’s powers are limited to regulating telecom operators and licencees.
It also said the draft regulations “puts millions of customers in harm’s way” as many customers might simply not want the said app and be on the platforms that do not support it. It said this was an “additional mandate” that was unnecessary when many other options were already available to customers.