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Why TRAI’s Recommendation on OTT Regulation is an Important Development to Uphold Privacy in India

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In September this 12 months the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) launched its suggestions on the regulation of Over-The-Top (OTT) communication companies. After an in depth five-year lengthy session and overview of the worldwide debate, the TRAI advisable that the time is not opportune to advocate a complete regulatory framework for OTT service suppliers past the extant of legal guidelines already in place. OTT communication companies encompass functions that ship multimedia to shoppers via a knowledge community.

The TRAI added that it will be greatest to let the market forces reply to the state of affairs. Most importantly, it opined that mandating lawful interception by compromising encryption will render the customers’ private knowledge susceptible to assaults by illegal actors, and subsequently the privateness and safety structure of the OTT companies should not be tinkered with. At the tip of this, the overriding ethos of the suggestions is a stance of non-confrontational remark for the foreseeable future.


Essentially, this quantities to a rejection of complaints raised by telecom operators who demanded that OTT apps offered a substitutable service and should be regulated in an identical approach to telecom corporations themselves. Clearly, TRAI was not satisfied and its forbearance is a step ahead to defend the curiosity of the customers. While the decision for regulation emanated from an financial standpoint, TRAI in its 2015 session additionally took into consideration how OTT platforms have regulated themselves as customers demand for higher privateness and encryption. This was adopted by one other session in 2018 the place TRAI launched a paper on exploring regulatory frameworks for OTTs in India. This is particularly related put up the Cambridge Analytica scandal that exposed to the world {that a} higher sense of accountability wanted to be imposed on corporations that now facilitate conversations and knowledge on-line.

To achieve a greater understanding of those suggestions, it is essential to perceive a few of the progressive strikes being put in place.

Firstly, it permits for market forces to self-regulate with out authorities interference and oversight. This is in line with the argument put forth by civil society organisations that the IT Act already regulates OTT platform interplay and any further regulatory framework to come will act as a type of over-regulation. Secondly, by refraining from regulating OTT platforms at this level, the TRAI has quelled issues relating to freedom of speech and potential over-surveillance of residents by the federal government.

Another closely-related resolution is the transfer to uphold encryption requirements and never mandate back-door entry to OTT knowledge. Encryption is an integral facet of sustaining consumer privateness and safety and sustaining excessive requirements of the identical is a optimistic transfer. While American and Brazilian legal guidelines looking for to break sturdy encryption have been emphatically criticised by specialists, the Indian regulator’s ahead wanting strategy that seeks to protect privateness and freedom of speech on the web should be welcomed by the worldwide viewers, and ought to be an instance to observe globally.

A senior intelligence veteran we had lately  interviewed clearly identified that creating back-doors on specious safety grounds has the potential to be problematic because it not solely supplies the federal government unfettered entry to consumer knowledge, but additionally makes knowledge susceptible to overseas governments and hackers which in flip impacts nationwide safety and user-privacy. By embracing the established order, TRAI has adopted a stance which is helpful to the privateness and security of customers on-line. End-to-end encryption ensures that not even the OTT platforms can decrypt the non-public knowledge of the shoppers. This encryption method ensures the very best requirements of privateness accessible on-line at present and supplies a way of safety and security on-line to its customers. The TRAI rightly recognised that imposing the requirement to present the communication particulars to regulation enforcement businesses in clear textual content would pressure the OTT gamers to change all the structure of the platform which might render the house susceptible to assaults by illegal actors. Regulators internationally ought to heed to TRAI’s suggestions, which has been the results of in depth conversations involving civil-society and the business, setting the best way ahead in the direction of a privateness enabling regime.

Looking forward, TRAI’s suggestions are an essential milestone that ought to encourage home policy-makers to undertake a extra progressive strategy in the direction of enhancing privateness whereas upholding India’s nationwide safety. It will hopefully set the tone for coverage choices which might be based mostly on detailed and nuanced conversations and which aren’t mere knee-jerk reactions, paving the best way for a extra user-centric strategy to policy-making.

(Kazim Rizvi is a public coverage entrepreneur and Founder of The Dialogue, a tech coverage think-tank based mostly out of New Delhi, and one of many main voices on expertise coverage in India.  Saikat is a Strategic Advisor to The Dialogue and Nullcon. The views expressed are private)




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