Private firms must prevent misuse of customers’ data: Trai chairman R S Sharma

New Delhi: Telecom regulator Trai on Friday questioned mobile applications seeking permission to access data that are not required for their functioning and asked private firms to ensure that they do not misuse the data of customers.

“There is an application which is actually a lighting application, a torch application. When you download the application, it asks for your contacts, camera and all of your peripherals. Why? For making your mobile phone a torch, why should it require access (to) all this?” Trai Chairman R S Sharma said at the India Mobile Congress here while expressing concern over data misuse by online players. He said people accept terms and conditions of online platforms without reading, which puts their privacy at risk.

“If you have read agreements that many tech companies ask you to sign terms and conditions before you subscribe to their service… if you carefully read them, they are essentially saying that they will be able to do pretty much everything that they like to do with your data. Essentially, you have given away your privacy by subscribing to those platforms, unfortunately,” Sharma said. Sharma, who played a key role in setting up of Aadhaar, said that the government’s unique ID project had privacy protection built in by design since its inception and the same was acknowledged by the Supreme Court in its recent judgement.

“Aadhaar is number. By looking at Aadhaar, you can’t determine gender, age…In public things you must ensure security, huge amount of encryption and privacy of data by design. In private, you must also protect individuals and customers from unnecessary and misuse of data,” Sharma said. At the session, Telecommunication and Postal Services CEO at Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) Johannes Gungl said that he too has downloaded a lot of applications because services are extremely beneficial.

“This is already time of monetisation. The services are always for free but there are no free lunches. We are the product. We get benefit and we give away data. This is reason we had to introduce privacy law in new form,” Gungl said, referring to European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). He said that European companies and all firms that are operating within EU are taking GDPR very seriously. “What GDPR is trying to achieve is give back control of data to people,” Gungl said.

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