TRAI orders Telecom Firms to use Blockchain Technology
TRAI, the telecom regulator has asked phone operators to use blockchain technology to make sure that only registered telemarketers can access phone databases and users consent to receive this communication. This communication should also be explicitly recorded.
TRAI has asked operators to use this technology to control the flow of commercial communication under its Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, 2018.
Blockchain secures information cryptographically through use of keys and signature to control who has access to what information within the distributed ledger and therefore only registered telemarketers will have access to and deploy certain functions.
In September 2017, TRAI had released a consultation paper looking for comments on how to create a system for registering telemarketers and improving the complaint redressal system.
This move was made because users continue to experience spam calls despite restrictions on telemarketers because people are unaware of the implications of sharing their numbers with different sources and the lack of a strict mechanism to take consent.
Ajeet Khurana, a former head of the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India said,
This is a step in the right direction by TRAI. Blockchain can effectively create a signature or a hash of an asset and instead of transmitting that entire digital asset, in this case the phone number, you can only put the hash on that database which can be accessed by the registered telemarketer. It will be like a virtual token of that digital asset. Blockchain can secure this database but in this case security is also needed at the point of origin of the data and before it is stored on the ledger i.e. ensuring that there is no leakage at the end of the telecom service provider generating the number.
The rule states that telemarketers interested in interacting with the users have to confirm their identity through a header registered in their name. In a situation an operator doesn’t get this, there could be a penalty of as much as Rs.50 lakh. Furthermore, the operators should have a way to record and revoke the consent of subscribers.
The industry is worried about the lack of a cost-benefit analysis of this regulation and blockchain technology.
Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
The time frame for implementing, especially given the requirement to implement distributed ledger technology, which has not been implemented by any other regulator, appears too stringent and difficult to achieve.
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