TRAI’s anti-spam app removed from App Store

The spam reporting application developed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, DND 2.0, has been removed from the Apple App Store. The app is the result of one of Apple’s most significant battles with the regulator – after months of resistance to authorities’ attempts to allow the app full access to messages and logs. appeals from users, Apple developed a workaround in 2018 that allowed the app to run without this bulk access.

Sometime between April and August this year, however, the iOS version of the app was removed from the App Store and TRAI website, Coach found. It is unclear whether the app was removed by Apple or by TRAI. In April, Apple had announcement that apps that do not receive an update within three years would be removed from the App Store.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment. Coach on the disappearance of the application. We’ve contacted TRAI for more details on the app’s removal and will update this post if we hear more.

DND 2.0 was developed to tackle an issue that TRAI – especially under the chairmanship of RS Sharma – was trying to tackle in 2017. As early as 2010, TRAI had set up a procedure for reporting SMS spamand has adopted regulations to ensure that user complaints are addressed within days.

Until 2016, however, the only way to report spam was to manually send an SMS with the text of the message and the sender’s name or number to a short code designated TRAI. TRAI thought there should be an easier way, and so he launched the DND app. At that time, the app would automatically fetch a user’s entire SMS inbox and call logs, then generate and send the report SMS.

But Apple found this method an unacceptable violation of user privacy – the company does not allow any developer to obtain users’ entire call and message logs for any reason. The stance infuriated Sharma. “No company can be authorized to be the guardian of a user’s data”, he complained in an interview.

iOS devices back then made up a small minority of phones sold and used in India in 2017 – that remains the case today. Nonetheless, TRAI has spent a fair amount of its regulatory power lobbying Apple to license the app. Apple offered to meet his technical team with TRAI officials to explain his position in 2018, and a meeting may have taken place at some point that year.

But TRAI’s displeasure persisted and proposed regulation that would have crippled Apple’s business in India – the Proposed Telecommunications Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations 2018. The draft text included a provision that would have banned the sale of any phone in India that did not allow the DND app to run on it.

Apple pushed back. In a confidential filing responding to the proposed settlement, Apple said: “Allow [a mobile app to transmit a customer’s personally-identifiable information and usage history to a third party automatically, without the user directing that action] would open the door to Apple users being tracked by third parties in ways that users did not invite and may not even realize, and it could expose them to harm.

But the pressure worked to some extent. Apple made changes to its iOS 12 version that allowed developers to make a SMS reporting extension to iPhone Messages app; this allowed users to individually select messages from their message logs without first providing a copy of everything messages from a user to another application.

TRAI was one of the few to adopt this extension, as it seemed to be developed exclusively to put out a regulatory fire in India. He seemed happy enough with the decision to launch the extension on iOS and move on – until it disappeared from the App Store this year.

About Sandra A. Powell

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