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DoT struggles to implement the CNAP facility

The department of telecommunications (DoT) may first deploy the feature related to displaying caller’s identity on the phone screen for only commercial entities, sources said. The feature may not be applicable in the initial stages for non-commercial telephone numbers due to privacy issues.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is currently working on the proposal to introduce the calling name presentation (CNAP) facility. The aim is to empower subscribers to take an informed decision while receiving an incoming call. This will also reduce spam calls. Currently, the caller’s name can be identified by downloading Truecaller app, but it may not be fully authentic due to the lack of KYC.

Since privacy issues have been highlighted during the consultation process, the thinking within the government is to first restrict the new feature to commercial entities and may be later extend it to private users after obtaining individual consent.

It is felt that by adopting this phased approach, the objective of reducing pesky calls and financial frauds will be achieved. Most telecom operators and other consumer organisations are in favour of such an approach.

According to Bharti Airtel, there are anywhere between 5 to 8 million entities/users engaged in telemarketing/commercial calling, excluding the P2P (peer-to-peer) users/numbers who indulge in misuse.

“Hence, the immediate and primary target of CNAP should be such A2P (application-to-person)/telemarketing/UCC (unsolicited commercial call) calling, which is the major volume driver of spam today. Once the solution is tested successfully on this universe, a wider roll-out could be deliberated over the larger subscriber base, if needed,” Bharti Airtel said during the consultation process on the subject.

According to LocalCircles, financial services and real estate sectors top the list of sending unwanted calls to people. According to their survey, 78% of the 15,186 subscribers complained of getting calls for financial services and real estate sales.

According to DeepStrat, a New Delhi-based think tank, storing a user’s personal information in any database and then disclosing it through a caller ID has privacy implications. Various stakeholders also suggested that the caller ID feature for individual identification should come in after the Personal Data Protection Bill is passed.

“We are concerned about the privacy of users and similarly about the issue of rising spams and financial frauds. Therefore, we would want to get started with commercial entities first to see the implementation of the feature. Trai is working on the recommendations simultaneously and we will see what best solution can come in,” a government official said, adding that there will be a reduction in pesky calls and messages with Trai’s directions on cleaning headers and templates.

On the privacy issues flagged by stakeholders with the implementation of caller ID feature, Trai chairman PD Vaghela has also directed his legal team to analyse a 2017 SC judgment on privacy to understand the issues. “We are concerned about privacy, there is no doubt about that. Trai has always stood for the privacy of people,” Vaghela had said at the open house discussion last month.

In 2017, the Supreme Court had declared privacy to be a fundamental right under Part III of the Constitution. The Court had also ruled that the grounds for restricting the right to privacy have to pass the three-fold test of legality, necessity, and proportionality.

“Because of the various data privacy issues, CNAP would be difficult to implement, as the feature should be based on user consent,” Mahipal Singh, vice president of regulatory affairs at Reliance Jio, had said at the open house session. Financial Express

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