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Call Data Records Taken To Improve Telecom Networks, Details Anonymized: Govt

The telecom department (DoT) on Wednesday said it is collecting call data records without personal details of subscribers to analyse call drops and improve telecom networks.

The DoT claimed that call data records of subscribers who enter in a given coverage area where there are incidences of call drops or subscribers facing the problem is collected without infringing their privacy.

“Call drops details, for only those calls made by a subscriber who enters a given coverage area of the identified cell Tower or calls drop / details of calls received or made by such subscriber are collected. It is reiterated that neither the names nor the address of the subscribers or the persons to whom the calls are made or received are being collected,” the DoT said in a statement.

Telecom operators have raised concerns over DoT units seeking call data records in bulk. Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT) in a letter to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash had raised concern over CDR being sought of VVIP zones.

It claimed the DoT unit of Delhi demanded call data records (CDRs) of the entire state for February 2, 3 and 4, 2020 and separately for specific routes in Delhi with residences of Ministers, Members of Parliament, Judge, important offices etc.

“There is also no question whatsoever of ascertaining the content of the call. Only if any call is terminated within 30 seconds and the same number is again dialled immediately, such calls are added to arrive at the final figure of call drops,” the statement said.

The DoT said that it has received numerous complaints regarding quality of service of Telecommunications Network, call drops, echo, cross connections, incomplete or poor caller experience.

To identify the specific problem areas and routes where call drops occur in a more scientific and innovative manner, the DoT has developed a software tool to analyse big data and accurately ascertain call drops in any area.

For this purpose, data on calls made from mobiles in any tower coverage area is analyzed to ascertain calls terminated within 30 seconds of the call and made again as normally is the case for a typical call drop, it said.

“However, this data is anonymous and does not contain names of either the maker or receiver of calls. There is no infringement of privacy of any person. No personal details are collected. There is no tracking of any phone number,” the statement said.

According to ACT, the DoT has already issued detailed instructions and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for providing CDRs to law enforcement agencies in August 2016 and April 2019 but the data sought was not as per guidelines.

The DoT including its field units under the SOP are required to ascertain the identity of the subscriber, examine the justification carefully for CDR demand, detail purpose for seeking CDRs and not using such CDRs received for any other purpose, define the officers authorised to seek and approve such a request.

The ACT said that almost all LSA units of the DoT seek one day CDR details from telecom operators on monthly basis in states like Andhra Pradesh on 1st and 5th day of the month, Delhi on 18th day, Haryana on 21st day, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir on the last day of the month, Kerala and Odisha on the 15th day, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab on the last day of the previous month and the first day of the current month.

The DoT said that it has been decided to seek data for the purpose of call drop analysis only for a short time period, three to six hours normally covering the peak load of traffic on the Network for any cell tower.

“Hence, all mobile phone subscribers can be assured that the above exercise is only with the objective of improving network quality. The data collected is anonymised. There is no surveillance of any kind,” the statement said.

Industry body COAI, a member of ACT, said the DoT has discussed the issue of collecting CDR and explained the reasons for seeking the data.

“Being satisfied, we have cooperated with the DoT to source the information sought by the DoT to improve network quality and address call drops. We are pleased to note that the DoT has in a statement issued today, reiterated its purposes behind such data requests,” COAI DG Rajan S Mathews said.

―Money Control

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