Apple Risks Ire of Indian Government Over Refusal to Approve State’s Anti-Spam App

Apple’s refusal to approve the Indian government’s anti-spam iPhone app has infuriated state regulators, which could work against the company’s efforts to increase its market share in the country, a report on Wednesday revealed.

According to Bloomberg, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has so far been unable to get its Do Not Disturb (DND) software on the App Store. The app allows people to share spam call and text message logs with the agency, which then sends the data to mobile operators for them to block the spammers. However, Apple has told regulators that the app violates its privacy policy.

“Nobody’s asking Apple to violate its privacy policy,” said Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of the Delhi-based telecom regulator. “It is a ridiculous situation, no company can be allowed to be the guardian of a user’s data.”

The regulator is currently seeking public and stakeholder comments on a consultative paper on users’ control over their personal information and rules on the flow of data through telecommunications networks. The process, scheduled to be completed in September, could eventually lead to new rules governing user data. That could also become part of the telecom licensing process, Sharma said.

Apple has been in talks with the Indian government to open retail stores and to gain permission to sell used iPhones imported into the country. The company is also seeking economic concessions including tax breaks as it sets up local manufacturing plants there, but those efforts could be negatively impacted by Apple’s refusal to approve the anti-spam software.

In 2016, Apple shipped 2.5 million iPhones in India, and this year one of its suppliers began assembling a limited number of iPhones in Bangalore. So far, India’s government has declined Apple’s request to import used iPhones and has yet to respond to the company’s other demands.

Half a dozen meetings with Apple have reportedly failed to resolve the standoff over the anti-spam app. While Apple’s privacy policy allows it to share user data with affiliates and strategic partners, Sharma said the Indian government’s Do Not Disturb app only requires a limited, pre-approved level of data sharing. However, Apple’s policy states that sharing data with any other entity isn’t permitted.

“The problem of who controls user data is getting acute and we have to plug the loose ends,” Sharma said. “This is not the regulator versus Apple, but Apple versus its own users.”

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