Will display of caller ID help? – The Hindu BusinessLine***

Clipped from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/will-display-of-caller-id-help/article66192055.ece

It is difficult to implement and could hurt the vulnerable sections of society further

Rarely a day goes by when an average mobile phone user is not fielding half a dozen spam calls. Apart from being a source of periodic irritation, these calls and SMSes can, in the worst case, lead to scams and racketeering, where customers fall victim to bulk calling agencies with nefarious intentions.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has been trying to deal with the problem of “Unsolicited Commercial Communication” for more than a decade. If the data suggest anything, these endeavours have been mostly futile. According to the Global Spam Report 2021, by Truecaller, India moved up in global rankings from 9th to 4th as a result of the exponential rise in sales and telemarketing calls.

Even as the public is grappling with the menace of spam calls, one hears the government’s mandatory caller ID proposal has likely been initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs, citing “security concerns.”

It is against this backdrop that the New Telecom Bill, 2022 is proposing mandatory caller ID display for all communication services. The government’s move for blanket implementation of disclosing identity was met with immediate pushback when the Draft Bill was released for consultation. If the proposal is fully implemented, the right to privacy will be infringed upon further as the government is essentially handing over the data repository associating identity to mobile phone numbers to the general public. Thus, sections of society, such as women, marginalised castes and religious minorities could be vulnerable to further harassment under this rule. 

Setting aside privacy concerns, the implementation of mandatory caller ID is pretty complicated. Telcos will need to coordinate with device-makers to ensure the IDs can be displayed. Thus implementation, even if possible, is unlikely to be seamless. Nasscom points out that for OTTs this could mean a complete infrastructural overhaul since most OTT communication apps have not set up their business models around KYC. Burgeoning OTT communications apps will be most affected by the government mandate.

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