Representative image. (Image: AFP)
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering creating an obligation on telcos to share know-your-customer details of their users with over-the-top (OTT) communication platforms like WhatsApp and Signal, people aware of the development told Moneycontrol.
“Such a provision will help OTTs display the verified name of a caller. The government is of the view that this will help in reducing impersonation and frauds,” said a source.
“The revised bill is likely to create an obligation on both telcos and OTTs to have the verified name as part of caller line identification,” he added.
Moreover, in a draft version of the telecom bill that came out in September, the government has included provisions to protect users from ‘specified messages’. The bill has defined this as ‘any message offering, advertising or promoting goods, services, interest in property, business opportunity, employment opportunity or investment opportunity.’
The proposed law says that the government may prescribe measures for protection of users from ‘specified’ messages. Such measures may include measures relating to the prior consent of users for receiving certain types of messages, and the preparation and maintenance of ‘Do Not Disturb’ registers so that users do not receive such messages without prior consent.
The draft telecom bill has also made OTTs worried as it includes this category of service providers under the umbrella of ‘telecommunications services’. Online messaging, e-commerce and content platforms are concerned that this would make them obligated to adhere to the stringent regulations on matters like licensing and encryption that telcos have so far come under.
According to sources, the government has been receptive to OTTs’ concerns over being clubbed with telecom service providers for all kinds of regulations in the bill.
“What may happen is that OTTs might be kept out of certain provisions in the next iteration of the bill. However, the provision for caller name presentation might turn out to be a more stringent obligation, if anything,” said a person in the know.
Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with a consultation paper on the logistics of mandating calling name presentation (CNAP) for telecom service providers.
TRAI Chairman PD Vaghela earlier said it is difficult to find the actual culprit at present who has indulged in fraudulent calls and messages for which the regulator is exploring several mechanisms to resolve the issue.
Vaghela had said at the India Mobile Congress in September that spammers have started using another number after blocking their previous number and were using proxy servers. The regulator is also working with telecom service providers to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect such fraudulent callers and spammers.
He had also said that Trai will also look to address privacy concerns around people who do not want their number to be displayed when they make calls. The draft telecom bill has proposed up to one-year imprisonment for giving false identity for availing telecom services to put a check on frauds and criminal activities.