Trai publishes consultation paper on data protection of mobile users

New Delhi: The telecom regulator has started a consultation process to assess whether the data rights of mobile phone users are adequately protected, a move that carriers said would lead to over regulation. They also questioned the watchdog’s jurisdiction on an issue that extends beyond telcos.

Through a consultation paper issued Wednesday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said it aimed to identify key issues pertaining to data protection in relation to delivery of

digital services, including telecom and data services, as well as devices, networks and applications that collect and control data generated by users through telcos.

The regulator wants to know if there should be greater parity in data protection norms applicable to carriers and internet-based voice and messaging services. Internet-based messaging services include Whats App and Hike.

In the paper titled, ‘Privacy, Security and Ownership of the Data in the Telecom Sector,’ Trai described data protection as ‘the ability of individuals to understand and control the manner in which information pertaining to them can be accessed and used by others.
Telcos questioned whether data ownership, security and privacy fall under the regulator’s ambit, noting that the watchdog “may bite off more than it can chew” while issuing a consultation paper on a subject that also involves entities that are not telecom licence holders.
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“The questions posed by the Trai paper are very broad and the risk is that of over-regulating an industry where technological changes and innovation can rapidly make any regulation outdated,”

said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, a grouping of operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio Infocomm. “There are also questions of jurisdiction that need to be answered.”

Telcos argued that regulating data through telecom operators alone, which fall under the purview of Trai, and excluding entities that are not licensees may create an arbitrage that may be detrimental to carriers.

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